New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS): The Delhi High Court on Tuesday deferred hearing to February 14, 2024 in NIA's plea seeking death penalty for Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, who is undergoing a life sentence in a terror funding case.
A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Shalinder Kaur also directed the Jail Superintendent of Tihar Jail to produce Malik from jail through video conferencing (VC) on the next date of hearing.
Last year in May, Malik -- who pleaded guilty -- was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special NIA court in a terror funding case, and was convicted of offences under various sections of IPC.
NIA has challenged the trial court order and has sought the death penalty for Malik.
Last time, in August, the convict appeared before the court through VC.
On May 29, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta had said that Malik avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty "very tactfully".
"Wider issue troubling us that any terrorist may come, commit terror activities and the court may say because he has pleaded guilty, we are giving life sentence. Everyone would come here and avoid trial by pleading guilty because they would know if they enter trial, hanging is the only result," he had argued.
The high court had on May 29 also issued production warrants for Wednesday to Malik on NIA's plea, however, on August 4, the court modified its order and allowed Tihar jail superintendent’s urgent application seeking to produce him through video conference (VC), citing security issues.
Citing an order issued by the President last year, Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Sanjay Lao, appearing for the jail authorities, had said that Malik is a threat to the society and thus, he shall not be moved out of jail or taken out from Delhi till one year or completion of his trial.
In another incident, on July 21, the Supreme Court was stunned to see Malik before it as he appeared for an appeal filed by the CBI against a special Jammu court order calling for his physical appearance for trial in kidnapping and murder cases against him.
Lao had also apprised the court of the above-mentioned event.
Taking note of the order issued by the President, the court had said: "In that view of the matter, the order dated May 29, 2023, is necessarily modified to the extent that the jail superintendent is directed to produce Yasin Malik through VC alone on August 9 and not in person. No further directions are necessary to be passed in the application. The application is allowed and disposed of accordingly."
The jail authority had sought modification of the high court's order directing personal presence of Malik during the hearing, saying that the convict is marked as a "very high risk" prisoner, hence he should be allowed to join the proceedings through VC.
"... it is submitted that the Respondent/Convict Yasin Malik has been lodged in the Tihar Jail, New Delhi under the category of very high risk prisoners and thus, the present Application is in relation to a heavy security issue. Therefore, it is imperative that the Respondent/Convict Yasin Malik is not physically produced before this Hon’ble Court in order to maintain public order and safety," the application had said.
On July 21, Supreme Court bench of Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Surya Kant recused itself from hearing the case and deferred it by four weeks.
The Solicitor General had taken up the issue of Malik's appearance before the top court, saying that the procedure is that the Registrar of the court needs to approve of such appearances.
He apprised the bench that Malik cannot be brought out of jail since Section 268 of the Criminal Procedure Code applies to him.
The SG added that the Central government will be taking necessary steps to ensure that Malik is not let out of jail again, and said that it is a heavy security issue.
Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, who appeared for the CBI, said that Malik was brought out of jail callously by the jail authorities upon misinterpretation of the top court's order.
The next day, Delhi prison authorities suspended four officers in Malik's security lapse case, an official had told.