Public prosecutor Deepak Salvi talking to the media outside Sessions court after the verdict was delivered on Friday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
On the fourth floor of the new Sessions court building, it was a day of judgment, and it did not disappoint. Seven years since the Special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) Court started hearing the second leg of the heinous 1993 blasts trial and almost 24 years since that first large scale organised attack tore into the city's fabric, the court pronounced six of the seven accused, including Mustafa Dossa and gangster Abu Salem, guilty. One accused, Abdul Shaikh, was acquitted.
20 people died in the car bomb blast outside Air India building on March 12, 1993
In a buzzing courtroom with high security, Judge GA Sanap, who started the second set of trial for seven accused in February, 2012, delivered the verdict at 12.20 pm. Of the seven accused, five convicted - Salem, Dossa, Firoz Khan, Tahir Merchant, Karimullah Khan - were under sections of the stringent TADA Act read with IPC, Arms Act, Explosive Act, Explosive Substance Act and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act; Riyaz Siddiqui only under TADA Act, but discharged from conspiracy charges; while Abdul Kayyum Shaikh was acquitted on the grounds that there was no evidence against him. The arguments on sentencing have been slotted for Monday.
As the judgment was being dictated, the seven accused in the accused box stood up one by one to hear their fate. When Kayyum heard he was acquitted, he smiled with relief and kept saying, "Bola tha na, mein chutunga" and "Aapan ghari zaanaar". For the others though, the court allowed them to meet their families inside the courtroom.
Interestingly, during the trial, Firoz's defense was that he was a case of mistaken identity; his name was Hamza. However, while convicting him, the court observed, "The accused before the court is not Hamza. He is the same Firoz, who was declared as proclaimed offender in this case in 1993. The prosecution has proved that he was the prominent member of the Dossa gang." In his conviction of Merchant, meanwhile, Judge Sanap said, "Tahir is amongst the main conspirators like Tiger and Yakub Memon. The evidence proves Tahir's frustration due to the situation in Bombay during the riots in January, 1993. In the conspiratorial meetings, it was discussed that they should do something to exact revenge for the atrocities suffered by Muslims. The revenge was planned against India and Hindus."
When it came to Salem, he was not only convicted for providing arms to Sanjay Dutt, but also for conspiracy, by observing, "The prosecution has proved that Salem was one of the main conspirators. He was close to Anees Ibrahim and Dossa and he was acting in consonance with the object of the conspiracy hatched by them."
Additionally, while convicting Dossa, the court recorded that he the first one to take a step towards the deadly attack on Mumbai. "The prosecution has proved that after demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and the communal riots, a conspiratorial meeting was called at Dossa's Dubai home. Dossa gave birth to the original design of heinous criminal conspiracy to take revenge against government and Hindus."
'Why was one acquitted?'
Meanwhile, cautiously celebrating the judgment, special counsel for CBI, Public Prosecutor Deepak Salvi, told mid-day, "It's a good order, but we need to go through the detailed judgment order to see why Riyaz was discharged from conspiracy charges and the reasoning for Kayyum Shaikh's acquittal. As far as sentencing is concerned, I am going to ask for the maximum sentence (the charges attract death as a maximum sentence) for the five accused convicted under TADA Act and conspiracy."
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