‘Every culprit entertains false hope’

Judicial certificates are not required from the culprits, says retired Judge P.D. Kode. File photo: Vivek Bendre

Judicial certificates are not required from the culprits, says retired Judge P.D. Kode. File photo: Vivek Bendre  

“O my lord, forgive this man. He knows not what he does!” Yakub Memon had screamed like a caged animal, his angry eyes fixed on the judge when the Tada Court sentenced him to death in July 2007. The outburst stunned the court room into silence, but Judge P.D. Kode remained unperturbed by the drama, and went on with his business with the usual calmness associated with him.

Recalling the incident, Justice Kode, who retired last month after serving in the Bombay High Court, says Yakub Memon, the younger brother of prime bombings conspirator Tiger Memon, has had several outbursts during the 14-year long trial.

“Anything that happens at the time of sentencing has to be ignored because nobody in this world readily accepts punishment. Every culprit, till the last moment, entertains false hope that he may escape the consequences of his actions,” says Justice Kode in an exclusive chat — his first after retirement — with The Hindu at his residence in central Mumbai.

Yakub Memon’s review petition seeking the recall of the March 21 2013 apex court order upholding his death sentence is presently before the Supreme Court which has stayed his execution.

“Anyway, judicial certificates are not required from the culprits. The apex court is there for giving us certification. Above all, it is also the society, the people of India who give us certification,” he says, when asked about the allegations made by the accused against the judiciary.

“If they [Memons] felt they had not done anything wrong, why did they run away from the clutches of law? But when they came back, they were given a fair opportunity to defend themselves. Eight of them were tried and those who had no role to play were acquitted. Guilt of others has been established,” he says. The 12 serial explosions on March 12, 1993 killed 270 people and injured 700 and is one of the biggest terror strikes before 9/11.

Given the sheer magnitude of the 1993 serial bombings case — a 10,000 page chargesheet, 13,000 pages of oral evidence, 7000 pages of documents and 6,700 pages of statements of accused, and over 120 accused — it was a daunting task for any judge. But, Justice Kode relentlessly pursued the case, not taking leave even when he lost his parents or when his hand was fractured in an accident.

During the trial, Justice Kode also had to dwell on the question whether actor Sanjay Dutt was a terrorist. “Sanjay Dutt always maintained decorum in the court...After assessing the evidence, no guilt could be proved regarding his involvement in terrorist act, and he was found to be guilty only for offences under the Arms Act. It was thus clarified that he wasn’t a terrorist,” he says.

Asked about public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam’s controversial revelation that he cooked up a story about Ajmal Kasab asking for mutton biryani in jail to counter public sympathy towards him, Justice Kode says “It is not the job of the prosecutor to twist the real facts. Officers have to protect the interest of the society, including that of the accused.” Mr. Nikam also worked as the Special Public Prosecutor for the 1993 serial bombings case.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 6:40:00 PM |

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