The court found five of the seven accused guilty of conspiracy, convicted Riaz Siddiqui under TADA for other charges but not conspiracy, and acquitted Abdul Qayyum of all charges.
A special Mumbai TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court pronounced its judgement on seven people accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, convicting Mustafa Dossa, Abu Salem, Tahir Merchant, Firoz Khan, Karimullah Shaikh and Riaz Siddiqui.
The court said Dossa, Salem, Merchant and Khan were among the ‘main conspirators’ in the case, reported ANI.
While Dossa was convicted on charges of conspiracy and murder under various sections of the IPC, as well as offences under the TADA Act, the Arms Act and the Explosives Act, Salem was found guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat to Mumbai ahead of the blasts. He had also given actor Sanjay Dutt AK-56 rifles, 250 rounds and some hand grenades at his residence on January 16, 1993. Two days later, Salem and two others went to Dutt’s house and brought back two of the rifles and some rounds, reported PTI.
Earlier, in 2013, the court had dropped some charges against Salem after the CBI filed a plea saying those charges were against the extradition treaty between India and Portugal.
Dossa was allegedly the mastermind behind the landing of explosives, including RDX, in India and sent some youth to Pakistan for arms training to execute the blasts.
Khan has been charged with conspiracy and murder under sections of the IPC, TADA and the Explosives Act. Meanwhile, Siddiqui has been convicted under TADA and for other charges, but not conspiracy.
The court acquitted Abdul Qayyum of all charges and ordered his release ‘on personal bond’.
All the accused have been acquitted of the charge of waging war against the nation.
Retired IPS officer and former Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria, who headed the probe in the case, welcomed the conviction of the six accused. “People who hatched the conspiracy with Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai got convicted. It is a good judgement and I am satisfied with it,” Maria told PTI.
“People like Dossa and Salem, who got convicted today, were involved in planning, conspiracy and finance in the Mumbai blasts,” he said, adding, “The investigation which our team carried out was accepted by the judiciary. This shows our investigation was right.”
Thirteen blasts rocked Mumbai on March 12, 1993, killing at least 250 people and injuring over 700.
In what is said to be the most coordinated terrorist attack to have taken place in India, the blasts occurred in some of the most crowded junctions in the city. The first blast one was in the basement of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Kala Ghoda. This was followed by a series of blasts that went off at small intervals at the Air India building on Marine Drive in Nariman Point, Century bazaar in Worli, Katha bazaar in Masjid Bandar, Zaveri bazaar, the Plaza theatre in Dadar, at Hotel Centaur in Juhu and Sea Rock in Bandra, and at a petrol pump adjoining the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar.
People at the Fisherman’s Colony in Mahim and at the Sahar International Airport were attacked with hand grenades.
The Supreme Court in its 2014 judgement said, “This was the first ever terrorist attack in the world where RDX (Research Department Explosive) was used on a large scale basis after World War II.” It was estimated that property worth over Rs 28 crore was destroyed in the attack.
Originally handled by the Mumbai police, the case was handed over to the CBI a month after the attack. The CBI filed a chargesheet against 189 people.
he chargesheet included Dutt, who was arrested almost immediately for the illegal possession of weapons including a 9-mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle with ammunition. He was charged under TADA for conspiracy in the blasts and for receiving the weapons from Salem. Dutt had claimed that he had the gun to protect his family as they had received threats during the Bombay riots that had followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in December 1992. Dutt was granted bail in October 1995 by the Supreme Court.
Communal riots had broken out across the country after the demolition of the Babri mosque. The CBI case said that the Mumbai serial blasts was an act of ‘revenge’ for the riots, in which many Muslims were killed, and was to ‘strike terror in the people to adversely affect the harmony’.
In 1994, the TADA court discharged 26 of the accused in the case and framed charges on the remaining people. The Supreme Court later removed charges against Abu Azmi and Amjed Meher Baux. Azmi is now a leader in the Samajwadi Party.
Ajaz Pathan, a member of Dawood’s gang, was presented in court for the September 2003 hearing, when the court reserved its judgement.
The first leg of the trial concluded in 2007 with the TADA court convicting 100 of the accused in the case, acquitting 23.
The trial of the seven accused – Salem, Dossa, Shaikh, Khan, Siddiqui, Merchant and Quayyum – were separated from the main case as they were arrested at the time of conclusion of the main trial.
Underworld don Dawood and members of the Memon family were believed to be the ones to have planned the attack. Yakub Memon, in a controversial judgement, was sentenced to death and hanged on July 30, 2015 in Nagpur jail.
The court found Tiger Memon, Yakub and two other members of their family guilty in its judgement in September 2006, and ordered death sentence for 12 of the accused, including Yakub, and 20 were given life sentence, while three were acquitted.
In March 2013, the court upheld its decision of death sentence to Yakub. It upheld the decision of life sentence to 16 of the accused. Dutt was convicted at the same time and given a five-year sentence.
Dawood, Tiger and Ayub Memon are absconding till date.
(With inputs from PTI)