1993 Mumbai blasts | A trial of ‘huge magnitude’, 30 years later

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Mumbai serial bomb blasts, retired Justice P.D. Kode reflects on the magnitude of the case which still failed to bring the crime’s masterminds to justice

Updated - March 14, 2023 12:55 pm IST

Published - March 12, 2023 04:44 am IST - MUMBAIA

Bombay serial bomb blasts in 1993.

Bombay serial bomb blasts in 1993. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Justice P.D. Kode, a retired judge of the Bombay High Court, once presided over one of the longest trials in the country’s criminal history: the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case.

On March 12 that year, 12 well-coordinated blasts rocked the financial capital, killing around 300 people and injuring over 700. Thirty years after that fateful day, Justice Kode reminisced about the trial, which started in 1995 and went on for 12 years, during which three judges presided, 684 witnesses were examined and 100 were convicted.

Also read: Timeline: 1993 Mumbai blasts and after

The case involved more than 13,000 pages of oral evidence, 7,000 pages of documents, and 6,700 pages of statements from the accused. The charge sheet was more than 10,000 pages long, and 189 accused were named in it, giving an idea of the trial’s huge magnitude.

“In a trial of criminal offence, generally there are about one or two accused who are tried for one or two offences related to one or two incidents. However, this trial was of a huge magnitude, the prosecution had a mammoth job as there were 124 accused. Normally each accused is asked about 30 questions, but in this case, there were about 300 questions. I have asked more than 20,000 questions,” said the retired Bombay HIgh Court judge.

“In a regular case, the operative order is about two to three pages, in this case it was 250-260 pages. The main judgment was prepared by me in 12 parts with 12 font size but it still ran into 6,000 pages. It had to be compiled on a CD for the convicts to appeal against it. There were 684 witnesses and one deputy commissioner of police had recorded 124 confessions, so his deposition went on for months. In addition to the criminal trial, properties were attached of the absconding accused, and that order ran into 900 pages,” he recalled.

The absconding masterminds behind the attacks, the accused gangsters Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, were not arrested in the case. “Even before the blasts took place, Dawood Ibrahim and his family fled the country. It is difficult to bring them back as our investigating agencies can work only within India. The accused need to be traced and then the police need help from other countries to bring them back. It was so difficult to get Abu Salem back. [He was extradited from Portugal],” Justice Kode explained.

“It is very easy to say, ‘bring back the accused’, but every country has different laws and unless we have a common law in the world over, you cannot catch hold of them. Our investigating agencies need a pat on their back for the work they have done with all the accused. This case was a conspiracy and 100 were convicted, which is a great success,” he added.

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