CLAIMING THAT they were merely “foot soldiers”, the 12 convicts in the Aurangabad arms haul case sought minimum punishment for their offences.
A special MCOCA court had on Thursday acquitted eight while convicting 12 persons, including alleged 26/11 plotter Zabiuddin Ansari, in the case.
On Friday, Special Judge S L Anekar heard arguments on the quantum of punishment for those convicted. Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry said that the 12 men were “foot soldiers”, while the masterminds as per the prosecution case are Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives based in Pakistan, who are still absconding.
“These men could not even have bought one AK-47 gun collectively. The court should consider the nature of their involvement and whether these people could have organised it (the arms) on their own,” Chaudhry argued.
He also cited Supreme Court judgments referring to the shift in the sentencing principles from the circumstances of the crime to those of the offender while deciding quantum of punishment.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had allegedly chased a Tata Sumo and a Tata Indica on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad in 2006 and seized 43 kg of RDX, AK 47 rifles, 3,200 live cartridges and 50 hand grenades.
Chaudhry was referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case where death sentences handed to 12 planters of the bombs were commuted to life imprisonment.
The court had differentiated between archers (main conspirators) and arrows (foot soldiers), sentencing Yakub Memon to death while commuting the others’ sentences to life in prison.
Chaudhry argued a “fear of threat” from the men to keep them imprisoned for longer terms as a reason does not seem valid in their case. “They have spent 10 years in prison under harsh conditions. I don’t think many of them are even in the condition to lead normal lives, let alone being future threats,” he argued. The men have been convicted under various sections, some of which could earn them a maximum of life term.
Apart from Zabiuddin, who was arrested in 2012, 11 convicts were arrested in 2006 and most have already spent over 10 years in prison. The 12 were convicted under various charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, in which which seven — including Zabiuddin — were convicted. The charges under which they were convicted include those under the Arms Act, Explosives Act, Explosive Substances Act and for conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code. Special public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade will begin his arguments on Saturday.