Mirza Himayat Baig, the only person tried in Pune’s German Bakery blast case, was sentenced to death by a sessions court on Thursday. He was held guilty on Monday of planning and executing the blast, which killed 17 people and injured more than 60 on February 13, 2010.
Calling it one of the rarest of rare cases, Additional Sessions Judge N.P. Dhote announced capital punishment to Baig on the charges under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) read with 120(B), of the IPC; 16-1 (A) and 10 (B) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, and 3(B) (causing an explosion to endanger life) of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Earlier in the day, asked whether he wanted to say anything on the quantum of the sentence that should be handed out to him, the 33-year-old Baig broke down in court. “I believe in Allah and he knows I haven’t done anything wrong. I respect the Indian justice system, but by giving me the death penalty, one more innocent will be killed in the tragedy that has already taken 17 lives,” he said.
“I have been framed by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS). I am only a simple teacher but everyone is silent because the real perpetrators haven’t been caught. Some day the truth will come out.”
Baig’s lawyer A. Rehman appealed to the court to show leniency to his client considering his age, his profession and the fact he was the only educated member of his family. He said Baig had no motive or direct involvement in the blast and he was convicted solely on the basis of circumstantial evidence, which was mitigating and not aggravating.
Challenging defence arguments, special public prosecutor Raja Thakre pleaded for the death penalty to Baig. “This is not a case of mere murder. It is an act of terrorism that claimed the lives of 17 people including five foreigners. The image of India has been lowered in the [eyes of the] international community as there is a belief that there is no safety for foreigners in India. A strong message should go out to the world that India is serious about tackling terrorism,” he said.
Refuting the plea that Baig should be shown leniency as he is a teacher and hails from a poor family, Mr. Thakre said: “What kind of a teacher is he who teaches jihad? Why was Baig away from his family for so long if he was concerned about it? “He did not do anything for his family. He is unmarried. He has thought of his family only now, at the time of asking for mercy. What about the victims’ families?”