Life term for Ansari

Published : Jun 19, 2009 00:00 IST

AFTAB ANSARI BEING taken to the Central Bureau of Investigation's headquarters in New Delhi in February 2002.-RAJEEV BHATT

AFTAB ANSARI BEING taken to the Central Bureau of Investigation's headquarters in New Delhi in February 2002.-RAJEEV BHATT

DUBAI-BASED don Aftab Ansari, who was awarded the death penalty in 2005 for his involvement in the attack on the American Centre in Kolkata in 2002, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court for the abduction in 2001 of shoe baron Partha Pratim Roy Burman. Ansaris accomplices, Happy Singh, Abdur Rehman Punji, Aquib Ali and Asabuddin, were also sentenced to life.

Additional District Judge Biswarup Bandopadhyay delivered the judgment in a high-security special court inside the Alipore Central Jail, where Ansari has been incarcerated. To avoid the security risks involved in trying a high-profile terrorist criminal like Ansari in an open court, his trial was conducted within the prison premises.

Seventeen of the suspects, including Harkat-ul-Jihadi-al-Islami (HuJI) activist Jamiluddin Nasir, were acquitted owing to lack of evidence. However, both Ansari and Nasir were already sentenced to death by another court in 2005 for the attack on the American Centre.

In July 2001, Burman was abducted at gunpoint while on his way to work. A week later, on August 2, he returned home, reportedly after a ransom of Rs.3.75 crore had been paid to his captors. Investigations later revealed that this money had apparently been used to finance the attack on the World Trade Centre in the United States on September 11, 2001.

The case of criminal abduction against Ansari and his accomplices was not without complications. Although the charge sheet was submitted in May 2002, the actual trial started only in 2005. The judge was transferred when most of the witnesses had been heard, and only after the transfer was revoked could the trial be resumed. The death of two key accused during the trial caused a further delay.

The biggest setback to the prosecution case came when the victim of the abduction turned hostile and even refused to identify his own voice recorded while in captivity.

Burman was held hostage in a house in Pakuria in the North 24 Parganas district. In fact, one of the defence lawyers reportedly criticised the judgment in public on the grounds that the court did not initiate proceedings against Burman for giving false evidence. This does not detract from the main issue of the verdict.

Ansaris earlier conviction the death sentence in the American Centre case was pronounced on April 27, 2005, by Judge Basudeb Majumdar of the City Civil and Sessions Court. On January 22, 2002, at around 6-35 a.m., gunmen on two motorcycles attacked the American Centre, killing four policemen and injuring 18 others. One of the wounded policemen later succumbed to his injuries.

Around 54 rounds of ammunition were fired by the attackers, who were in army fatigues, with their AK-47 and AK-56 rifles concealed under black shawls. The attack took the police so completely by surprise that they did not fire a single retaliatory shot. Had it not been for the presence of a police van that just happened to be in the line of fire, the casualty list could have been much longer.

Ansari was the mastermind behind the attack, and the following day, on January 23, he was apprehended by the Dubai police as he was about to board a flight to Pakistan. He was subsequently deported to India.

Judge Majumdars verdict was a unique one as never since Independence have so many people been sentenced to death in a single case in West Bengal.

He described the case as being among the rarest of the rare and handed out the sentence on two counts: waging war against the state, under Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code, and possession of arms, under the Arms Act. According to the present ruling of the Supreme Court, a death sentence can only be justified in rarest of the rare cases.

The Calcutta High Court allowed the trial to take place inside the Presidency Jail to pre-empt any escape attempt by Ansari. A total of 123 witnesses were examined in the course of the trial. Ansaris appeal in the American Centre case is pending before the court.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment