Vasantha Kumar,TNN | Dec 18, 2014,

BENGALURU: The Karnataka high court on Wednesday commuted the death penalty of 7 members of the banned Deendar Channabasaveshwara Anjuman sect in connection with the 2000 serial church blasts. But the conviction of all 22 accused in the case has been upheld.

The blasts had occurred in June-July 2000 in Bengaluru, Hubballi and Wadi in Kalaburagi district.

A division bench headed by Justice N Kumar commuted the death penalty awarded by a special court in 2008 to 7 of the convicts to life sentence. Also, the life sentence imposed on 15 other members of the sect has been upheld.

“The evidence on record clearly establishes that each of the accused is party to the conspiracy. They wanted to see how Hindus and Christians fight among themselves, so that peace in the society is destroyed. They printed pamphlets and circulated them, with the hope that Christians and Hindus would lock horns. In a country which believes in peaceful co-existence of all religions, the action of these is unpardonable,” the bench said.

The bench even cited Karnataka’s anthem penned by Rashtrakavi Kuvempu to describe the state as a garden of religions.

While commuting the death penalty, the bench said no loss of life was reported in the blasts and the only intent was to bring disharmony.

“It is of utmost importance that a strong message is sent to all these misguided, evil-minded elements in society and in particular, the youth of the Muslim community to desist from indulging in any such anti-national activities lest the entire community gets a bad name. This is a country and state, which belongs to all religious denominations,” the bench added.

Zia-ul-Hassan, the kingpin, went absconding with his four children to Mardan city of Pakistan, and later died.