On death row for 6 years, man gets retrial in blast case

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered retrial in a 1997 Delhi blast case as the Pakistani national convicted in the case did not have legal help during the trial. The High Court had sentenced Mohammad Hussain to death six years ago.

A three-judge bench led by Justice R M Lodha asked the trial court to conduct a fresh trial for Mohammad Hussain and conclude it within three months after providing him necessary legal aid.

"Justice is supreme. The retrial of the appellant, in our opinion, in the facts and circumstances, is indispensable. It is imperative that justice is secured after providing the appellant with the legal practitioner if he does not engage a lawyer of his choice," the court said.

It, however, noted that acquittal on this ground was not an option since the incident, which had occurred in a public bus in December 1997 had left four persons dead and 24 others injured.

"It cannot be ignored that the offences with which the appellant has been charged are of very serious nature and if the prosecution succeeds and the appellant is convicted under Section 302 IPC on retrial, the sentence could be death or life imprisonment. In an extremely serious criminal case of the exceptional nature like the present one, it would result in failure of justice if the prosecution is not taken to the logical conclusion," the court said .

Hussain, who hails from Jindrakhar village in Okara, Pakistan, was convicted and sentenced to death in November 2004 by the trial court for his role in the blast. The Delhi High Court confirmed the death penalty in August 2006 which Hussain challenged in the apex court.

A two-judge bench delivered a split verdict in January. While both judges agreed that his fundamental right had been breached since he was not given the assistance of a lawyer to defend himself during the trial, their orders were different.

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