The Bombay high court on Thursday quashed the death penalty awarded to lone convict Himayat Baig in the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune due to lack of evidence, but confirmed the life sentence imposed on him for possession of explosives.
A division bench of Justices N H Patil and S B Shukre said Baig is acquitted of all charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), under sections 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC, and under some sections of the Explosive Substances Act.
The court, however, confirmed Baig's conviction and life sentence imposed on him under section 5(B) of the Explosive Substances Act, for possession of RDX.
The court also confirmed his conviction under section 474 of IPC, for submitting forged documents while procuring mobile phone SIM cards.
The high court further said that it need not pass any order on the applications filed by two witnesses in the case, as it has acquitted Baig of the charges.
Notably, when Baig filed his appeal in the high court challenging the death penalty, two witnesses in the case had also filed an application seeking their evidence to be recorded again as their statement was taken under duress.
Dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, Baig was present in the court when the judgement was pronounced.
Baig, who the police said was a member of the terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen, was arrested in September 2010 for involvement in the blast at German Bakery, a popular eatery in Pune's Koregaon Park area, which killed 17 persons and injured 58, including some foreign nationals.
In 2013, a sessions court in Pune convicted him and awarded capital punishment.
Himayat Baig, the lone convict in the case, was arrested in September 2010 from Latur in Maharashtra.
The ATS had recovered 1,200 kgs of RDX from Baig's residence in Latur after his arrest.
There are total eight accused in the case, of whom six are wanted.
Besides Baig, another accused Qateel Siddiqui was also arrested, but he died in Pune's Yerawada jail following a scuffle with other inmates.
The other wanted accused in the case are -- IM operatives Yasin Bhatkal, Mohsin Choudhary, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Ismail Bhatkal, Fayyaz Kagzi and Sayyad Zabiuddin Ansari.
According to prosecution, the bomb used in the blast was assembled at Baig's internet cafe. Thereafter, he travelled to Pune by bus with Mohsin Choudhary and planted the bomb.
However, Baig's lawyer Mehmood Pracha had earlier argued that Baig was not even present in Pune at the time of the blast, and that he was attending a wedding in Latur.
According to Pracha, it was Qateel Siddiqui who along with Yasin Bhatkal went to Pune.
When Baig filed his appeal in the high court challenging the death penalty, two witnesses in the case filed an application in HC seeking that their evidence be recorded again as their statement was taken under duress.
Former journalist Ashish Khetan had also earlier filed a PIL, alleging that Baig was falsely implicated and the case should be probed afresh by NIA.