1993 Mumbai blasts - a peep into history
The March 12, 1993, Mumbai blasts involved one of the most comprehensive and successful probes by the Mumbai police, as within 48 hours it was established as an attempt by the underworld to create terror in India's commercial capital.
The Supreme Court in its verdict delivered Thursday confirmed the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon in the case and commuted the death sentence of 10 others, 20 years after Mumbai was rocked by 12 powerful bomb blasts.
These were India's first major, precisely co-ordinated serial explosions that claimed more than 260 lives and left some 700 injured, stunning the country.
The apex court also upheld the conviction by a trial court of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt in the terror attack and sent him to five years in prison.
To the credit of the Mumbai police, they cracked the case within two days and established the involvement of the Memon family and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim in perpetrating the serial blasts as a "revenge" for the atrocities committed on the Muslims between December 1992 to January 1993 riots in the city, after the demolition of Babri mosque in Ayodhya by frenzied Hindu mobs.
The blasts took place at quick intervals spanning two hours at the Bombay Stock Exchange, Kalbadevi, Shiv Sena Bhavan, Air India building at Nariman Point, Fishermen's Colony in Mahim, Worli Century Bazar, Zaveri Bazar, Hotel SeaRock in Bandra, among other places.
Barely a month after the attacks, the Mumbai police made their most sensational arrest when they nabbed Sanjay Dutt.
The young and brash Dutt was abroad shooting in Mauritius at the time and he was lured back home to face the music by A.S. Samra, the then police commissioner, a soft-spoken Sikh who wielded an iron rod covered in velvet on criminals.
Within eight months, on Nov 4, 1993, the police had completed the probe and filed a massive 10,000-plus page charge sheet with the court against 189 accused in the serial blasts case.
A fortnight later on Nov 19, 1993, for the first time the Central Bureau of Investigation entered the fray, given the international political ramifications of the case and the fact that many of the accused had run away to Pakistan, Gulf nations and the Europe.
Meanwhile, a special court under the dreaded Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act was set up to conduct the trial into the case, functioning from the Bombay City Civil & Sessions Court complex, adjacent to the Bombay High Court in south Mumbai.
However, given its sensitivity and security risks, the government shifted it inside the high-security Arthur Road Central Jail in April 1994.
Around that time, a little known lawyer, 40-year-old Ujjwal Nikam was named the special public prosecutor who would direct the trial into the case which had captured international headlines.
In April 1995, the trial in the case started with Nikam leading the government charge against the accused, some of whom were represented by Majeed Memon, now a top criminal lawyer and also a Nationalist Congress Party leader.
By October 2000, the painstaking examination of 684 prosecution witnesses was completed and the statements of the accused were recorded from March to July 2001. For three more months, the next stage, the prosecution arguments, was taken up and completed in October 2001.
Another 10 months later, the defence closed its arguments and in September 2003, the trial in the 10-year-old case finally ended.
The Special Court began handing out its judgments from September 2006 onwards.
Besides Sanjay Dutt, the gallery of the accused included central and state governments' uniformed and civil officials who had conspired with the mafia to achieve its diabolical strategy.
During the course of the trial, several accused died, some turned approvers and others were killed in police shootout though the main bunch continue to be elusive and on the run for the past two decades, thumbing the nose at the Indian and international law enforcers.
Exactly 20 years after the March 12, 1993, serial blasts, the Supreme Court Thursday gave its final verdict which will hopefully put a lid on a bloody chapter in the modern Indian history.