American Center case: SC commutes death sentences

 The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted life to two death convicts in the 2002 American Center attack case in Kolkata with a rider that the mastermind will remain behind bars till death and the other will spend at least 30 years in jail without remission. A bench of justices AK Patnaik and FM Ibrahim Khalifulla upheld the conviction of the mastermind Aftab Ahmad Ansari and Jamiluddin Nasir but said death is not warranted in the case.

The court passed the order on appeals filed by Ansari and Nasir challenging the Calcutta High Court order which had confirmed death sentence awarded to them by trial court. The apex court had in 2010 stayed the death sentence awarded to them.

Two motorcycle-borne men had indiscriminately fired with an AK-47 assault rifle at policemen outside the American Center on Jawaharlal Nehru Road on 22 January, 2002 killing six of them and injuring 14 others. A division bench of the Calcutta High Court had in February 2010 upheld the death sentence of Ansari along with co-accused Jamiluddin Nasir but commuted the capital punishment awarded to three others to seven years imprisonment.

The sessions court in April 2005 had sentenced Ansari, Nasir and three others to death while acquitting two others. Just four days after the attack, two persons – Salim and Zahid – were injured in an encounter with a Delhi Police team in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand and they subsequently died. The police had come to know about the involvement of Ansari in the American Center attack from their dying declarations.

Ansari was arrested from Dubai and was deported to India on 9 February, 2002. He was part of Asif Reza Commando Force. 
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