Mumbai: Nine years after a series of bomb blasts in suburban trains rattled the metropolis killing 188 people, a special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Wednesday sentenced five of the 12 convicted in the case to death while the remaining were awarded life imprisonment.
Delivering the verdict, special judge Yatin D. Shinde pronounced capital punishment for Kamal Ahamed Ansari (37), Mohd Faisal Shaikh (36), Ehtesham Siddiqui (30), Naveed Hussain Khan (30) and Asif Khan (38), all of them bomb planters. The remaining seven, who were spared the noose, are Tanvir Ahmed Ansari (37), Mohammad Majid Shafi (32), Shaikh Alam Shaikh (41), Mohd Sajid Ansari (34), Muzzammil Shaikh (27), Soheil Mehmood Shaikh (43) and Zamir Ahmad Shaikh (36).
The blasts had ripped the suburban trains within a span of 10 minutes between Khar Road-Santacruz, Bandra-Khar Road, Jogeshwari-Mahim Junction, Mira Road-Bhayander, Matunga-Mahim Junction and Borivali. The court had last week concluded hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence when prosecution demanded death penalty for 8 of the 12 accused while it sought life imprisonment for the remaining four.
On 23 September, the MCOCA court had reserved its order on sentencing in the case for Wednesday. Earlier, on 11 September, it had convicted 12 of the 13 accused, all allegedly having links with banned SIMI, while acquitting one. The accused were found guilty of charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Explosives Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and Indian Railway Act and those under MCOCA. The court also found all the 12 accused guilty under Section 3 (1) (i) of MCOCA, which attracts capital punishment.
During the investigations, 13 accused, all of them Indians, were arrested and brought to trial. The chargesheet filed by Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in November 2006 had named 30 accused, out of which 17 are absconding. The absconding—13 Pakistan nationals—include Azam Chima, member of Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba. After 12 accused were found guilty, judge Shinde had allowed the defence lawyers to examine witnesses to bring out the mitigating circumstances in the case. Defence lawyers subsequently examined nine witnesses to show the court that the accused have undergone reformation and thus may not be given capital punishment.
The list of witnesses included the relatives of accused, doctors, teachers and others while one of the convicts examined another accused in Mumbai 2012 serial blasts. After the examination of witnesses, the defence advocates had pleaded leniency saying that the 12 convicts were merely the pawns of mastermind Cheema. The defence advocates also pointed out that the convicts faced several hardships in jail and that was also one of the mitigating circumstances.
Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare termed the convicts ‘merchants of death’ and pressed for capital punishment to eight of the 12 convicts. Thakare also told the court that (social) thinkers feel that why money of honest taxpayers should be spent and government burdened for the upkeep of these convicts. He also argued that the court may, if it feels, take a lenient view of four convicts and grant them life term.
Seven RDX bombs had exploded in the first class coaches in many suburban trains on 11 July 2006, killing 188 people and injuring 829. The ATS charge sheet had said that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were made in a room in Govandi in suburban Mumbai and some Pakistani nationals were also present during the bomb-making. In the trial that ran for eight long years, the prosecution examined 192 witnesses, including eight Indian Police Service (IPS) and five Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers as well as 18 doctors.
The defence lawyers examined 51 witnesses and one person was called as a court witness. The MCOCA judge had concluded the trial on 19 August last year. The examination of witnesses resumed after two years since the Supreme Court had stayed the trial in 2008. Before the stay, the prosecution had already examined a police officer. The Supreme Court vacated the stay on 23 April 2010. Of the 13 accused arrested by ATS between 20 July 2006 and 3 October 2006, 11 had given statements admitting to their involvement in the blasts but later retracted.
The case took a twist when the defence lawyer sought to call Indian Mujahideen co-founder Sadiq Sheikh as defence witness after he told the police in 2008 that IM members were responsible for all the blasts that happened since 2005 including the train blasts. The court had allowed to examine Sadiq as a defence witness who later claimed that he gave his confession under duress. PTI