A Delhi court on Monday awarded death penalty to Ariz Khan for the murder of decorated Delhi Police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma in the sensational 2008 Batla House encounter here, observing that capital punishment will meet the interest of justice.
Holding that the offence fell under the "rarest of the rare category" and that Ariz acted like a "dreaded and well-trained terrorist" who does not deserve any leniency, Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav ordered that the convict be hanged by neck till death.
Ariz was convicted last Monday in the case that had triggered a political storm. The court had said it was "duly proved that Ariz and his associates caused murder of police official and fired gunshot on the police official".
"Interest of justice will be met if convict is awarded death penalty," the court said whlle pronouncing the sentence, adding that Ariz on account of his despicable act has forfeited his right to live. The court also handed down multiple sentences.
The court termed the act of Ariz firing on a police party without any provocation as "abhorrent and brutal", saying this itself showed he was not only a threat to the society but was also an enemy of the state.
Inspector Sharma of the police's special cell was killed during the encounter between the police and suspected terrorists in Jamia Nagar in south Delhi on September 19, 2008 following serial bomb blasts in the national capital in which 39 people died and 159 were injured. Two of Sharma's colleagues were injured and two terrorists killed in the encounter.
The court also imposed a total fine of Rs 11 lakh on Ariz. It said Rs 10 lakh should be immediately released to the family members of Sharma.
"I feel the fine of Rs 10 lakh is insufficient. Hence, I am referring the matter to Delhi Legal Services Authority for award of additional compensation," the judge further said.
For Maya Sharma, the wife of the slain cop, the death penalty for Ariz has come after a "13-year-old struggle of wait and watch".
"I want to thank judiciary. We have got a huge relief after 13 years. Finally, justice has been delivered after our 13 year-long struggle. Court has done justice to us. Until now, we were in a position of wait and watch," she told PTI.
The court said the offence proved against Ariz was not an ordinary act but a crime against the state.
"After balancing mitigating circumstances against aggravating circumstances, it is concluded that it is a rarest of the rare case where convict deserves maximum sentence provided under the law. It is the level of magnitude, degree of brutality, attitude and mindset of wrong doer behind the crime along with other factors which makes it a rarest of the rare case.
"Protection of society and deterring criminal is an avowed object of law and this is required to be achieved by imprisonment of appropriate sentence: The most appropriate sentence for convict like Ariz Khan will be death penalty," the court said in its order.
The encounter case had also led to rights activists questioning the actions of Special Cell officers, divided public opinion and continues to be a raging controversy.
Over the years, the BJP and the Congress have sparred over it with the saffron party accusing the Congress of going soft on terrorism when in power. The BJP has lashed out at Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, for raising doubts about the encounter and asked them to apologise for it.
"The Delhi court's verdict today in the Batla House encounter case thoroughly exposes the terrorist sympathisers and doubters lobby in the country. Now Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal who raised questions on the integrity of our police forces must apologise to the nation," BJP leader and Union minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta while welcoming the verdict said party leaders of the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) had insulted "the martyrdom of the policemen" killed in the encounter by terming it fake.
Additional Public Prosecutor A T Ansari, appearing for the police, sought death penalty for Ariz, allegedly associated with the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, saying it was not just any killing but a murder of a law enforcement officer who was a defender of justice.
"Ariz along with others was carrying deadly weapons which clearly suggests that they were ready to kill anybody in any eventuality. They were the first to start fire without any provocation," the public prosecutor said.
Advocate M S Khan, appearing for Ariz, opposed the death penalty and said the incident was not premeditated.
In its order, the court said it should not be forgotten that deadly weapons like AK-47 and two pistols were retrieved from the flat where the shootout took place, and considering the nature of devastation that these weapons can cause, it would be safe to conclude that these weapons were kept in the flat with a view to indulge in terrorist and anti-social activities.
"Deleterious impact of crime on social order and human psyche added to the list of aggravating circumstances. Unbearable miseries inflicted by convict do constitute aggravating circumstance. Nature of offence and manner of committing the crime aroused extreme indignation to the society in this case."
The court said it has been proved on record that the convict after the shootout managed to escape and run away from the spot and eluded investigating agencies for almost 10 years despite coercive process against him.
"Convict (Ariz) was declared proclaimed offender way back in the year 2009 and was ultimately arrested in 2018. There is no evidence on record that convict during investigation or trial showed any signs of reformation or repentance. Thus, the natural and inescapable conclusion is that there is no chance of reformation of convict," it noted.
"Involvement of convict in various blast cases not only in Delhi but also in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Uttar Pradesh, in which hundreds of innocent people were killed and injured further demonstrates that convict continues to be a threat to the society and the nation."
The court further sentenced Ariz to life imprisonment for the offence of attempt to murder.
It also sentenced him to three years imprisonment for voluntarily obstructing police form discharging their duty, 10 years rigorous imprisonment(RI) for voluntarily causing grievous hurt to police officials, RI for two years for assault of public servant and three years imprisonment for the offence under section 27 (using arms) of Arms Act.
Ariz had fled from the spot and was declared proclaimed offender. He was arrested on February 14, 2018, and faced trial.
Inspector Sharma had led a seven-member team to the Batla House on September 19, 2008 on a tip-off that suspected terrorists, involved in the serial blasts in the capital, were hiding there. He had succumbed to the bullet injuries sustained during the gun battle.
He was bestowed with the highest gallantry award, the Ashok Chakra.