The Supreme Court on Thursday confirmed the death sentence awarded to Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the main accused (A-1), and brother of Tiger Memon (the mastermind and absconding key conspirator), holding him guilty of being the “driving spirit” in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that killed 257 people.

The court also upheld the conviction of actor Sanjay Dutt in the case, but reduced to five years the six-year jail term awarded to him by a designated TADA court in 2006 for illegal possession a 9 mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle, which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought for the serial blasts. The apex court ruled out his release on probation because the “nature” of his offence was “serious.” Mr. Dutt (53), son of Bollywood couple late Sunil Dutt and Nargis, had spent one-and-half years in jail and was out on bail.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan, however, commuted the death sentence awarded to 10 persons by the TADA court, into life imprisonment till their death. These appellants parked explosive-filled vehicles in the respective destinations.

Making it clear that the sentence would be subject to the power of remission, the Bench said the executive should give due consideration to judicial reasoning before it exercised the remission power.

The Bench maintained that Pakistan had a major part in the blasts. “A careful reading of the confessional statements of the convicted accused exposes that a large number of the accused, including the absconders, received training in [the] making of bombs by using RDX and other explosives” in Pakistan, it said.

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The confessional statements of various co-accused make a mention that Tiger Memon, the mastermind of the whole conspiracy, instructed the other appellants to stay in touch with A-1 for further instruction. … A-1 assumed the role of Tiger Memon in India during his absence. As an outcome, Tiger Memon gave the commands to A-1, who in turn passed them on to the other accused… Essentially, A-1’s deeds can’t be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts. They were the architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight.”

The Bench said:

“From this conduct, it is not a hyperbole to state that he was one of the ‘driving spirit’ behind the plan…, whereas the other appellants played a far lesser role and thus [made] a lesser contribution to the crimes resulting from this plan. To be clearer on the dominant position, the blasts on March 12, 1993, was at the discretion of the masterminds, meaning… they had the effective control over the incident.

“It is this effective control… which is absent in the role played by the rest of the appellants. It is difficult to rule out with certainty that if the absconding accused were to be brought to trial, they might have thrown further light on the role played by A-1. If we say it in a metaphoric style, A-1 and all the absconding accused were the archers, whereas the rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands.

“Taking into account… the totality of A-1’s culpability and all the particular circumstances of the case, we concur with the decision of the designated court and confirm the sentence of capital punishment [awarded] to A-1.”

The Bench upheld the life sentence awarded to 23 others, including police and Customs officers; Yakub Memon’s brother Essa Memon who was found guilty of conspiracy and allowing the use of his flat at Al-Hussaini building at Mahim for meetings to plan the blasts and storing arms and ammunition; and Yakub’s sister-in-law Rubina Memon, who arranged finances through her bank account and allowed her car to be used by terrorists for carrying co-conspirators, arms, ammunition and explosives.

From the archive

Sanjay Dutt sentenced to 6 years in jail

Sanjay Dutt challenges his conviction

More In: National | News