The Delhi High Court reduced the sentences of five individuals associated with the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Initially handed life imprisonment, their punishment was lessened to ten years in jail.

The individuals had been convicted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). These sections included charges of conspiracy to wage war against the government of India and aiding a terrorist organization.

A Division Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Manoj Jain noted that the trial court seemed overly influenced by the severity of the charges, overlooking crucial factors such as the defendants' remorse and their early admission of guilt. The Court said, “Considering the same, coupled with their young age and the fact that they don’t have any other conviction to their credit, the approach of the learned Trial Court should have been rather that of reforming them which it even noted in the impugned judgment, albeit, not translated into reality, and, therefore, it is a fit case where the sentence awarded under Section 121A IPC and Section 23 UAPA needs to be reduced.”

The Court further added, "Nonetheless, it will be hazardous to assume that these convicts, merely because of their despicable past, have no future. They do need to be given "a ray of hope"."

Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan appeared for the Appellants and Advocate Gautam Narayan appeared for the Respondents.

In their judgment, the Bench referenced the famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky's work, "Crime and Punishment," highlighting the concept of conscience and suffering for one's misdeeds. They emphasized the need for a justice system that focuses on rehabilitation rather than solely punitive measures. The Court believed that reducing the sentences to ten years of rigorous imprisonment would serve the interests of justice in this case.

The High Court scrutinized the trial court's decision to impose maximum punishment without providing adequate reasoning. It stressed the importance of considering the potential for rehabilitation and reform, rather than simply locking individuals away for life. The Court added, “There is nothing on record which may suggest that they are beyond redemption. India has shown enough of progression in all spheres and our justice delivery system is no exception. It also strongly believes that, more often than not, the eventual consequence of any penal sanction should be to reform any individual, instead of shutting him out by putting him inside for life.”

The Court ordered, “Consequently, we hereby dispose of all the appeals with modification that for offence under Section 121A IPC, appellants are directed to serve sentence of rigorous imprisonment for ten years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- and to further undergo SI for a period of one year in case of default of payment of fine. In relation to Crl. A. No. 56/2023 pertaining to appellant Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, besides above modification, sentence with respect to Section 23 UAPA is also modified and is reduced to rigorous imprisonment for a period of ten years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- and to further undergo SI for a period of one year in case of default of payment of fine.”

Cause Title: Bilal Ahmad Mir & Ors. v. National Investigating Agency & Anr., [2024:DHC:4113-DB]


Appellants: Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, Advocates Ashwath Sitaraman, Bedotroyi Gupta, Stuti Rai, Kunal Malik

Respondents: Advocate Gautam Narayan, SPP Asmita Singh, Zeenat Malik, Harshit Goel, K.V. Vibu Prasad

Click here to read/download Judgment