Thirty-eight years after their appeals were filed, the conviction of two Anandmargis and their 10-year jail term were upheld by Delhi High Court on Thursday in connection with their attempt to assassinate the then Chief Justice of India AN Ray near the Supreme Court in 1975.
The court, while upholding the convictions of Santosh Anand Avdhoot and Sudevanand Avdhoot, however, set free the third convict Ranjan Dwivedi, a lawyer, of the charge of conspiring with the two to bomb the car of the then CJI on the evening of March 20, 1975. The appeals against the trial court's judgement were filed in the High Court in 1976 and the hearing commenced in 2006, after a lapse of three decades.
Justice SP Garg, in his 201-page verdict, termed the offence as "the most foul and senseless murderous attack" on the CJI and said the convicts did not deserve any leniency on any grounds including the delay in judicial process.
The convicts, who remained in jail for eleven years from 1975 to 1986 when they got bail, have been awarded ten years rigorous jail term under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC. In a separate offence of conspiracy under section 120B of the IPC, the court reduced the seven years jail term, earlier awarded by the trial court, to four years.
The two convicts have now been directed to surrender before the trial court on August 21 to serve the remaining sentence of three years as the sentences of 10 and four years were not concurrent.
"Considering the gravity of the offence whereby sinister attempt was made on the life of the then Chief Justice of India in a well planned conspiracy with the use of highly sophisticated explosives (hand grenades), the convicts A-1 (Santosh Anand) and A-3 (Sudevanand) deserve no leniency", it said.
The court said that a "befitting" punishment would serve the ends of justice. "Despite claiming to be followers of the 'Organisation' (Anand Margi) which did not preach violence, the convicts indulged in the most foul and senseless murderous attack/ assault on the Chief Justice of India," it said.
The two convicts and Dwivedi are also facing trial in the case of murder former railway minister LN Mishra. The CBI had said that the two Anandmargis had thrown hand grenades inside the official car of the then CJI A N Ray at a traffic intersection of Tilak Marg and Bhagwan Das Marg near the apex court premises around 4.15 pm on March 20, 1975, but they did not explode.
"Justice demands that the court should impose punishment befitting the crime. There is no space for any leniency and the prayer for that is misplaced," Justice Garg said.