He holds the right to appeal, but yesterday a city court awarded the maximum possible punishment – the death penalty – to the lone convict in the German Bakery blast case. 33-year-old Mirza Himayat Baig, a resident of Kamwada Galli, Juna Bazar in Beed, was conferred capital punishment for murder and criminal conspiracy, besides under provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Explosive Substances Act.
Advocate A Rehman and Kayanat Shaikh represented Baig, who was arrested by ATS in September 2010 from Mahatma Gandhi bus stand near Pulgate in Pune. Refuting his involvement and urging for leniency, Rehman argued before the court that the convict never went to the blast site at German Bakery, and that according to the prosecution he had only accompanied the person who was carrying the bomb, that too till Central Mall. The defence counsel added that Baig did not know that the actions would lead to the death of many. Rehman added that the prosecution had failed miserably to put forward details from Colombo where the alleged conspiracy was hatched in the presence of Fayyaz Kagzi and Mohsin Chaudhari in 2008.
The defence also stated that six other accused – Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, Fayyaz Kagzi, Yasin Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhari – are ‘absconding’ in the case, and despite Jundal’s arrest in the 26/11 case, he was not produced before the court here. Rehman reminded the judge that he had produced six witnesses to prove that the Baig was not in Pune on the date of the blast. He also argued that the prosecution had failed to establish how Yasin Bhatkal gained possession of the RDX, as this is a specialised explosive and is usually restricted to military usage. Further, Rehman contended that while the convict was charged under sections 3, 4, 5 of Explosive Substances Act, he had pleaded before the court that the explosives were planted at his residence.
‘He’s a teacher’
The defence argued that the prosecution had failed to establish motive, intention and possession. While appealing for leniency, Rehman said that his client is a literate person, is a teacher, and has completed BA and D Ed. The lawyer also maintained that Baig became a teacher to impart education to kids so they can become good citizens.
Rehman also reasoned said that the convict had old parents who ran a small shop to earn a living, and Baig was running Global Internet Café in Udgir to support them. He maintained that Baig had no previous convictions against him, and there was no evidence that he was a member of Indian Mujahideen, or Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Rehman added that life imprisonment is a rule in such cases and death sentence is a rarity. He alluded to the case of Rampal Singh vs The State of UP where 21 persons were killed, but the Supreme Court had awarded life imprisonment considering the young age of the accused, and had upheld the need for reformation and rehabilitation.
Rejecting the defence’s plea for leniency Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre said Baig was found guilty under section of 16 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and that this terrorist act was a criminal conspiracy of not one, but the result of cumulative work of multiple brains.
RDX was used to carry out the blast. Also, arguing against the contention that in several cases a convict of multiple murders was shown leniency, Thakre pleaded that this was an act of terror and not murder. Emphasising the rarity of the case he said that 17 innocent lives – including those of five foreign nationals – were lost, many families were shattered, scores of injured are forced to live life in misery because of this attack. “If compassion is shown, our country’s image will be lowered internationally and it will reflect that in India no security is being given to foreign nationals,” Thakre contended.
Quashing mitigating evidences like the convict’s young age, the prosecution said that Yaqub Memon was 33 and Ajmal Kasab was 23 when they committed dreaded crimes, but Supreme Court did not consider their age while awarding punishment. Defence’s argument that Baig trained as a teacher should not be considered because it was proved before the court that he was involved in indoctrinating youth by showing them clippings of violence in Palestine and in Gujarat, Thakre maintained. He added that the convict being educated cannot be an exception – even Memon is a Chartered Accountant.
‘Propensity for crime’
Refuting defence claims that Baig should be awarded a lesser punishment, as he has no criminal antecedents, Thakre said that since 2006 he was collecting documents to help him camouflage his identity so he could masquerade as a physically challenged person.
This showed that he had the propensity and tendencies towards criminal activities. He pointed out that section 18 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is about abetting and advocating act of terror. Stating that RDX was used in commission of the offence, the prosecution argued that section 3(B) of Explosive Substances Act says that irrespective of damage or loss of property, if special category explosive is used the person should be punished with death.
Countering defence assertions that the motive behind Baig’s involvement has not been established, Thakre told the court that ‘the man is bound to know the consequences of his act’. He was in company of Mohsin Chaudhari and Zabi who was deported. Thakre argued that taking into consideration the seriousness of the crime, the defencelessness of the victims and abhorrence caused by the act of terror, Baig should be awarded the maximum possible penalty.
Observations of judge
Himayat Baig was a part of the conspiracy group, which executed the bomb blast at the German Bakery on February 13, 2010, killing 17 people and injuring more than 60. Baig has participated in a heinous act because of which several people, including five foreign nationals were killed.
The crime committed by Baig and his accomplices, who are at large, is against humanity. Baig possessed explosives and used them with the clear knowledge of destruction and further consequences.
This was a crime committed to undermine image country’s security. The convict was greatly influenced by ideology of terrorism. Observing his calculated moves in giving effect to conspiracy and terrorist act, I am of considered view that there are no chances of his reformation He is a threat to society.
In view of proven facts, circumstances of case and observations of Supreme Court, the only punishment Baig deserves is death penalty.