Bombay High Court upholds conviction of duo plotting terror acts at the behest of a Pakistani uncle

Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court on Monday upheld the conviction of two Mumbai-based men, who had conspired to carry out terrorist activities in various parts of the city. The two men, who were acting at the behest of an ‘uncle’ in Pakistan, were ordered 12-years rigorous imprisonment.

The convicts – Abdul Latif Shaikh (resident of Bandra) and Riaz Ali Shaikh (resident of Dahisar) – were convicted by a special court in January 2016. The duo was convicted on the grounds of their telephonic conversations with an uncle of Pakistan. This person is said to have assured them of giving ‘enough’ money if they set ablaze the ONGC building at Bandra, the Thakur mall and Gujarati colony in Borivli and the Mangaldas market, Kalbadevi.

The duo petitioned the single-judge bench of Justice Anant Badar challenging their conviction and punishment imposed by the special court. Justice Badar after considering the material on record, said, “The composite effect of the evidence goes to show that the duo was intending to strike terror among the people by using inflammable substance by setting the populous residential colony and market on fire in order to cause death and injuries to the people at large and for interrupting the supply of services essential to the life of the community.”

“Mass destruction by fire would certainly lead to destruction of essential services like electricity and petroleum gas. The evidence unerringly indicates an act preparatory to commission of terrorist act,” Justice Badar held. According to the case of the prosecution, an Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) officer had on March 2, 2010 received information that a person based in Pakistan was conspiring with his associates in Mumbai for committing terrorists activities at several places in Mumbai such as ONGC building, Mangaldas Market and Gujarati colony near Thakur Mall.

In all 18 telephonic conversations from two mobile phones were intercepted and recorded by the ATS. The accused in their plea even questioned the interception of their phone calls citing the right to privacy. Justice Badar, however, trashed their argument, saying, “The right to privacy is included in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and it is a part of the right to protection of life and personal liberty. This right to privacy includes having a telephonic conversation by a citizen which can be of a confidential nature.”

“Telephonic conversation is one of the means for exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 19. Thus, the right to have telephonic conversation in privacy can be curtailed only when there is an occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety,” Justice Badar added.

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