Kochi : The Kerala High Court on Monday confirmed the conviction and sentence awarded to prime accused Thadiyantavida Nazeer and nine others in the Kashmir terror recruitment case. A Division Bench of Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice C. Jayachandran, however, acquitted the 2nd, 14th, 22nd acused in the case.
The terror recruitment case revolves around the allegations that persons from Kerala are being recruited in terror camps in Jammu and Kashmir. The matter came to light in 2008 when security forces in Kashmir shot down some suspected terrorists, out of which four turned out to be youths from Kerala.
The Ernakulam NIA Special Court had convicted 13 persons and acquitted 5 in the case. The convicted accused moved the High Court challenging their conviction while the NIA moved the Court challenging the acquittal of the remaining 5.
NIA then started investigating into possible organised recruitment of youths from Kerala to Kashmir to take part in terrorist activities. The probe resulted in charges being filed against 20 persons, including suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, Thadiyantevida Nazeer and his associate Shafas. Both men were recently acquitted by the High Court in the Kozhikode twin blasts case.
This case had earlier made headlines when the High Court allowed witness examination of a BSNL official who had issued a call record showing communication between the accused and some persons in Kashmir at the appellate stage. This is an extraordinary step since generally, witness examinations in criminal appeals are completed at the trial courts and the High Court only evaluate the evidence gathered by the trial court.
This move was prompted when the counsel for the convicted appellants argued that the BSNL official had not given the mandatory attestation under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act on the call record presented by him. ASGI S Manu appearing on behalf of NIA, therefore, filed a special petition seeking permission to cross-examine the said official. Upon evaluating the facts of the case, the Bench deemed it appropriate to allow the said petition and thereby summoned the BSNL official on April 8.
As such, the accused who were out on bail were directed to appear before in person while those in custody were ordered to appear via video conferencing from the prisons in which they are currently incarcerated. The Court thereby recorded the statement of the official and accepted the call record certificate issued by BSNL as additional evidence.