New Delhi, Dec 1: Afzal Guru, the terrorist behind the Dec 13, 2001, Parliament attack case, from past three years is on the death row marking time in Tihar. Had he been hanged after fair trail and all due review, it might have sent out the message that India was going to be tough on terror. Since September, 2005, SC has dismissed petitions seeking review of its judgement upholding the death sentence on Afzal Guru. Why the delay?
Just ahead of his execution, scheduled for Oct 20, 2006, Afzal's family filed a clemency plea with the President (Abdul Kalam) who referred it to home ministry. The file was then sent to Delhi government under a provision that requires the views of the state where the crime has occurred. Delhi government has not been in any hurry to convey its view. In fact, the file has not moved at all.
But, in a magazine interview, Kalam said, "Regarding Afzal Guru, I have not received any papers from the Ministry concerned so far," while responding to a question on requests for clemency for persons facing the death penalty, including Guru, which had been pending with him. He went on to say that if the papers had come to him, "I would have processed them for their worth."Kalam had sent Guru's mercy plea to the Home Ministry for its views.
An impression has grown, in the meantime, that the delay is political. Afzal's sentencing triggered protests in Kashmir. J&K politicians like Omar Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad have pleaded against hanging the convict. So has the PDP. On one occasion, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said that hanging Afzal would prejudice India's attempt to bring back Sarabjit, an Indian on the death row in Pakistan. Comparing Sarabjit, who India denies was a spy, and a key conspirator in the Parliament attack seemed completely out of place.
Meanwhile, groups claiming that Afzal did not get a fair trial, said he did not get proper legal aid, that evidence against him was slim and he was framed by the J&K STF.
The SC has dealt with the substantive points. It has noted that Afzal refused to appoint a lawyer. SC held Afzal guilty of conspiracy and planning a terror attack after knocking out his confessional statement.
The evidence against Afzal is staggering. His mobile number, recovered from Mohammed, a slain terrorist who fell near Parliament's gate No 1, was a crucial breakthrough. The court said that even minutes before the attack, three calls were made by Mohammed to Afzal. Also, there was evidence that the mobile was being exchanged between Afzal and Mohammed and other terrorists.
The court noted that an instrument used by Afzal till December 12, 2001 was recovered from a dead terrorist the next day. Also, there was recovery of explosives, fake uniforms, a key laptop and identification of Afzal by a landlord of a premise where the terrorists stayed. So, what is the Delhi government's view?