SC Considers Remission for 96-Year-Old Rajasthan Train Blast Convict

SC leans towards remission for 96-year-old convict in Rajasthan train blast case, citing his deteriorating health; considers human rights angle.

The Supreme Court inclined towards granting remission to a 96-year-old convict, Habib Ahmed Khan, serving a life sentence in the 1993 Rajasthan train blast case. Currently on parole due to deteriorating health, Khan sought permanent parole, prompting Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan to urge the Rajasthan government to assess the case from a human rights perspective.

Khan's legal team highlighted his 27-year incarceration, punctuated by thrice-granted paroles. Perusing Khan's medical records, the bench questioned the rationale behind his continued imprisonment, likening it to capital punishment. They emphasized that although Khan was convicted of a terror offense, he was not sentenced to death, making his ongoing incarceration akin to capital punishment.

The bench directed Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjeet Banerjee, representing the Rajasthan government, to consider Khan's remission from a human rights standpoint. Banerjee noted that Khan's terror conviction could impede his remission application to the state government.

In response, Justice Oka invoked Article 21 of the Constitution, highlighting Khan's deteriorating health and asserting the need for compassion. Justice Bhuyan underscored Khan's advanced age, expressing concern over the insensitivity of the law.

Banerjee cautioned against using Article 142 of the Constitution for remission, emphasizing that only the state government could grant remission. Justice Oka stressed the need for balance and the court's authority within constitutional bounds.

The bench instructed Banerjee to ascertain whether Khan could be granted remission or permanent parole and scheduled further hearings in two weeks.

Khan's involvement in the 1993 train blasts led to his arrest in 1994 and subsequent conviction in 2004 under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). The Supreme Court affirmed his life sentence in 2016. Granted parole by the top court in 2021 due to declining health, Khan had previously been granted parole twice by the Rajasthan High Court – in 2018 and 2020 – considering his age and health.