This is the first time in the four-and-a-half-decade-long history of terrorism in the northeastern state that a terrorist has been given the capital punishment.
"The division bench of the Agartala bench of the Gauhati High Court comprising justices I.A. Ansari and S.C. Das has Wednesday upheld the capital punishment awarded by the additional district sessions court to an NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) militant Ashok Debbarma, 39," a senior police official told reporters.
A group of heavily armed NLFT guerrillas led by Ashok Debbarma mowed down 15 men, women and children and injured four others at Jarulbachai in western Tripura, 30 km north of here, Feb 11, 1997.
The Tripura government had asked the CID to probe the massacre. The CID officials, after inquiring into the killings, filed chargesheets against 16 extremists, eleven of whom were absconding.
Of the five arrested militants, three had been exonerated by the additional district sessions court for lack of evidence while another fled from police custody during the trial.
The police official said that the main accused Ashok Debbarma challenged the Nov 10, 2005 verdict of the additional district sessions court before the division bench of the Gauhati High Court, which after a long trial pronounced the verdict of upholding the lower court's judgement.
Defence counsel Saumek Deb said they were yet to decide whether to appeal before the Supreme Court against the high court order.
Lawyers in Tripura said that this was the first time the death penalty had been awarded to a militant in the entire northeastern region.