New Delhi: Slamming police for “serious lapses" in probe of the 1996 Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case, the Delhi high court on Thursday acquitted two alleged Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front (JKIF) militants, sentenced with capital punishment in the case, and commuted the death penalty of the third terrorist to life imprisonment.

A bench of justices S. Ravindra Bhat and G. P. Mittal converted JKIF terrorist Mohammad Naushad’s death penalty to life term, while acquitting Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohd Ali Bhat alias Kille, who had been given the capital punishment by the trial court.

The bench, however, upheld the life sentence given to third convict Javed Ahmad Khan alias Chotta Javed.

The court gave its verdict, rebuking the Delhi Police for its failure to adduce even “the minimum standard of proof" and saying that “it has shown casual approach in the case".

“Police has not maintained minimum standard of probe in the case, test identification parade was not conducted, statement of vital witnesses were not recorded. There was also absence of ‘Delhi Diary’ entry in the case," the bench said.

A JKIF team had set off a very high intensity blast at Lajpat Nagar market on 21 May 1996, triggering it in explosives kept in a stolen Maruti car in the market.

A city court had in April 2010 convicted six alleged JKIF militants, awarding death sentence to Naushad, Bhatt and Hussain, while their fourth accomplice Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The remaining two convicts, Farooq Ahmed Khan and his woman accomplice Farida Dar, who had been held guilty for offences under the Explosive Substances Act and the Arms Act, were sentenced to imprisonment for seven years, and four years and two months, respectively.

The high court had been hearing the appeals of the four—Naushad, Bhatt, Hussain and Khan—against their conviction and sentencing by the trial court.

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