In a major setback to Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, the Bombay High Court on Thursday set aside the death sentence awarded to lone 2010 Pune German bakery bomb blast case convict Himayat Baig. Baig was convicted only under one section, while he was acquitted of the remaining charges.
Court held him guilty only for possessing RDX at his house and confirmed the life imprisonment handed down to him.
Justices N H Patil and S B Shukre read out the judgment to Baig. “You have been acquitted of the death penalty,” the judges told Baig. Baig said that he has been made a ‘scapegoat’ and that he has been ‘framed’ in the case.
The confirmation petition was filed by the Maharashtra government and Baig had filed the appeal challenging his conviction and the death sentence.
In 2013, the sessions court in Pune convicted him and awarded him capital punishment.
The sessions court had held Baig, a resident of Beed, guilty under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substances), 474 (forgery), 153(A) (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, language and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of IPC.
He was also convicted under various sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and 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 state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested Baig on 7 September, 2010. Investigators say they found 1,200 kg of explosives from his home in Udgir in Latur district.
During the trial, the defence had claimed that Baig was falsely implicated by the ATS in the case. They claimed that Baig was attending a wedding in Aurangabad on the day of the blast. The prosecution has said in court that the blast was planned at a meeting in Colombo in 2008, where Baig was trained to make a bomb. He assembled the bomb at his cyber cafe in Udgir.
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.
Baig, as per police, was a member of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen and he was arrested in September 2010 for involvement in the blast at German Bakery, a popular eatery in Pune’s Koregaon Park area.
Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare had argued for confirming the death sentence by stating that the entire case was based on circumstantial evidence and every circumstance had been proved by relevant records which are of sterling quality. Further he had argued in favour of the death penalty saying that the trial court reasoning was sound and thus death penalty should be upheld.
However, advocate Mehmood Pracha and TW Pathan appearing for Baig argued that the prosecution evidence is of weak nature and fabricated. They said independent investigations carried out by other agencies like the National Investigation Agency and the Delhi Special Cell have indicated that other accused not before the court were involved in the case. Moreover, two other intervenors cited several instances of Baig’s innocence.
Interestingly, and more importantly, two key witnesses had moved their applications in the matter, saying they were coerced into giving statements against Baig during his trial. In addition, AAP leader Ashish Khetan had moved an application, claiming that he had carried out a sting operation on these witnesses which revealed that they were “coerced” and “tutored” by the Maharashtra ATS to give the testimony. The HC rejected the applications filed by the two witnesses and Khetan.