Mumbai: Two men will hang, two others will be jailed for life, and one will spend 10 years in prison for their role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people and injured over 713, a special court ruled on Thursday. One of the two people sentenced to life is gangster Abu Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in 2005.
The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court in Mumbai (TADA court) had convicted six people on 16 June. Out of the six, Mustafa Dossa, one of the convicts and key conspirators, died on 28 June and the case against him was abated.
The TADA court awarded death penalty to Feroz Khan and Tahir Merchant convicted of criminal conspiracy against the State, act of terrorism, and murder, and gave life sentence to Salem and Karimullah Khan. The fifth accused Riyaz Siddiqui, held not guilty of conspiracy, was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which took charge of the investigation from Mumbai Police crime branch in 1993, had sought capital punishment for Feroz Khan, Merchant and Karimullah Khan and life sentence for Salem and Siddiqui. Prime accused Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar and Tiger Memon and 33 others are still absconding. Yakub Memon, one of the key conspirators, was convicted and awarded death penalty by the TADA court in 2007, and hanged on 30 July 2015.
Also Read: 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case: A timeline of events
“The verdict was historic", Ujwal Nikam, senior lawyer and public prosecutor in the TADA court that heard the case, told Mint on the phone. “It is a historic verdict because the evidence we placed before the court in the 1993 blasts case can now be used in the cases against the main accused Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon who are absconding. In Abu Salem’s case, we could not ask for death penalty to respect the undertaking we had given to the Portugal government at the time of his extradition saying he would not be executed," Nikam said. The senior lawyer, however, refused to call the verdict a “closure", since the case could be called “conclusive" only when the main accused including Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are brought to book.
The Mumbai blasts case is one of India’s most epic legal battles in terms of scale, delays, controversies and political dimensions.
On 12 March, 1993, as many as 13 serial bomb blasts rocked Bombay, as the city was called then, at prominent and crowded locations including the Bombay Stock Exchange, basement of the Air India building at Nariman Point, Zaveri Bazar, Plaza Cinema, and hotels Centaur in Juhu and Sea Rock in Bandra. It was India’s first high-profile terror attack outside Jammu and Kashmir, masterminded by non-state actors from across the border.
The Mumbai crime branch, which investigated the case, painstakingly put together the pieces to establish the conspiracy. Both the Mumbai police and later the CBI concluded that the conspiracy was hatched to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December, 1992, and the subsequent riots in Mumbai that killed more than 900 people. While Dawood Ibrahim was believed to be in Pakistan at the time of the blasts, the Memon family left Mumbai two days before the blasts. The Mumbai police achieved a clinching breakthrough on 14 March when it found an RDX-laden vehicle registered in the name of Tiger Memon’s sister-in-law Rubina.
The Mumbai crime branch filed a 10,000-page charge-sheet in November 1993, which named 189 persons including actor Sanjay Dutt on charges of illegal possession of weapons including an AK-56 rifle. The TADA court started delivering the judgment in September 2006 and finished it in December the same year.
Riots after the Babri Masji demolition and the blasts that followed changed the state’s politics forever. The events of 1992 and 1993 filled the sails of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which emerged victorious for the first time in the state’s history in the 1995 assembly election.