SC bench splits on death sentence to Pakistani

New Delhi: A division bench of the Supreme Court today passed a split verdict on the plea of a Pakistani national challenging his conviction and death sentence awarded to him in the 1997 Delhi blast case.

While Justice H L Dattu was of the opinion that a fresh trial should be conducted in view that witnesses were not cross examined by the accused, the other judge Justice C K Prasad did not hold the same view. In view of the split verdict, the matter has been referred to the Chief Justice.

Mohammad Hussain was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2004 by the trial court for his role in the 1997 Delhi blast case which had occurred in a blue line bus leaving four persons dead and 24 injured.

The trial court had termed the case as "rarest of rare" and had awarded death sentence to Hussain, a native of Jindrakhar village at Okara in Pakistan. The High Court had in August 2006 upheld the death sentence which was challenged by Hussain before the apex court.

On December 30, 1997, a bomb had exploded at Rampura near Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi in a Blue Line bus. The blast left 28 people injured of which four succumbed to injuries later in a hospital.

Hussain was arrested by the police on March 21, 1998. A city court had, however, discharged the other accused in the case ? Abdul Rehman, Azhar Ahmed and Maqsood Ahmed ? for want of evidence.

In 1997, the city was rocked by 22 serial blasts.

Another man accused of causing the two blasts at Karol Bagh, Mohammed Amir Khan was earlier sentenced to 10 years` rigorous imprisonment for one blast case and life imprisonment for the other by another city court.