President Rejects Mercy Plea of Terrorist in Red Fort Attack Case

President Droupadi Murmu has rejected the mercy petition of Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq, who was convicted in the 2000 Red Fort attack case
President Rejects Mercy Plea of Terrorist in Red Fort Attack Case

President Droupadi Murmu has rejected the mercy petition of Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq, who was convicted in the 2000 Red Fort attack case. This is the second mercy plea rejected by President Murmu since she assumed office on July 25, 2022.

Despite the rejection, legal experts note that a death row convict can still appeal to the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to seek commutation of their sentence based on prolonged delays. Arif's mercy petition, submitted on May 15, was turned down by the President's secretariat on May 29.

The attack on the Red Fort was deemed a direct threat to India's unity, integrity, and sovereignty. The incident occurred on December 22, 2000, when intruders opened fire at the 7 Rajputana Rifles unit stationed within the Red Fort premises, resulting in the deaths of three Army personnel.

Arif, a Pakistani national and member of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was arrested by Delhi Police four days after the attack. He was found guilty of conspiring with other militants to carry out the attack and was sentenced to death by the trial court in October 2005. This decision was upheld by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court in subsequent appeals.

The trial court concluded that the conspiracy to attack the Red Fort was planned at the house of two conspirators in Srinagar. Arif had illegally entered India in 1999 along with three other LeT militants—Abu Shaad, Abu Bilal, and Abu Haider—who were later killed in separate encounters. Despite multiple legal challenges, including review and curative petitions, Arif's plea for mercy was rejected, underscoring the severity of the crime and its threat to national security.

Arif then appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the death sentence in August 2011. His review petition was dismissed by a two-judge bench of the apex court in August 2012, and a curative petition was rejected in January 2014.

Arif later filed a petition asserting that review petitions in death sentence cases should be heard by a bench of three judges and in open court. In a September 2014 judgment, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court concluded that such cases should indeed be listed before a three-judge bench. Before this verdict, review and curative petitions of death row convicts were decided in chamber proceedings by circulation

The Supreme Court ultimately rejected his review petition on November 3, 2022. This decision follows President Murmu's rejection of another mercy petition last year in a separate case, demonstrating a firm stance on cases involving heinous crimes.

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