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2003 blasts: HC upholds death sentence of 3 convicts

The Bombay High Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of three LeT members, including a couple, in the 2003 twin Mumbai blasts that claimed 52 lives.

A division bench of Justice A M Khanvilkar and P D Kode confirmed the death penalty awarded to Ashrat Ansari (32), Hanif Sayed Anees (46) and his wife Fehmida Sayed (43) but partially quashed the order of the trial court discharging two other accused on the basis of a report of the POTA review committee.

The High Court upheld death sentence awarded to them on all three counts of perpetrating terror, criminal conspiracy and murder.

Mohammed Ansari Ladoowala and Mohammed Hasan Batterywala will now have to face trial, but only under IPC charges that had been levelled against them and not under POTA.

The court directed them to appear before the trial court in four weeks for proceedings to be initiated. The bench, however, stayed the sentence for eight weeks to allow the convicts to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, in response to the request of their counsel, Sudeep Pasbola.

The court had on November 12, 2011 reserved its judgement on confirmation of death sentence to the three after arguments concluded at a special hearing. The three had been found guilty by a POTA court of planting powerful bombs in two taxis, which exploded at the iconic Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar on August 25, 2003, killing 52 people and injuring 184 others. The trio were awarded death sentence on August 6.

The conspiracy for the blasts had been hatched by Hanif, Ashrat, Nasir, a Hyderabad resident, who was later killed in a police encounter, and some Pakistani nationals owing allegiance to LeT in Dubai.

The LeT's role in the twin blasts was revealed by an accused-turned-approver. The approver was given a pardon by the court after public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam submitted a certificate saying he may be discharged.

It was for the first time that LeT had used a family to carry out bomb blasts in the country.

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