The Hindu Explains: From Dera's money trail to the Mumbai blasts conviction

In Mumbai, a blasts conviction and after

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On September 7, a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court sentenced two to death and gangster Abu Salem to life imprisonment for the Bombay blasts of 1993. Though this may have brought some closure to the victims’ families after a long wait — 257 people had died — it’s a fact that 27 of the key accused, including the masterminds Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, are still roaming free.

What happened?

In December 1992 and January 1993, Bombay was riven by riots that followed the destruction of the Babri Masjid. When Ibrahim ‘Tiger’ Memon’s shop was torched by hooligans, he decided to take revenge with the help of his underworld connections, including the brothers Mohammed and Mustafa Dossa.

They recruited youngsters and, aided by Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar — the gangster who had fled India several years ago, but still controlled a vast empire in the country — and, allegedly, Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, smuggled in explosives and arms through various landing points on the west coast. And on March 10, 1993, 12 bombs ripped through the city.

What did the police do?

The breakthrough came just hours after the blasts. Two junior police officers found a van in Worli, filled with machine guns and ammunition. It was traced to Rubina Memon, Tiger’s sister-in-law; and the police went to the Memon residence at Mahim in central Bombay, and subsequently, after a chase, arrested Imitiaz Ghavate in Bandra East.

Ghavate’s interrogation yielded the names of Tiger and his associates. But by then, he and his family had left India. The special investigation team, under the then Deputy Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria, with help from intelligence agencies and the CBI, laboured to put the pieces together. They followed leads across the country, interrogating men who had played seemingly insignificant roles in the conspiracy. Relatives of some of those interrogated accuse the lawmen of using torture to get information. The vital breakthrough came when one of the accused, Badshah Khan (name changed to protect identity of the witness), had a change of heart and surrendered. The information investigators got from him led to a series of arrests and a long list of those wanted. On November 4, 1993, the Mumbai police filed a 10,000-plus-page chargesheet naming 189 persons. A supplementary chargesheet was filed in the TADA court.

What did the courts do?

In 1995, when Bombay’s name was changed to Mumbai, the TADA court trial started in April under J.N. Patel, with charges framed against 123 persons. In March 1996, Justice Patel was elevated to the Bombay High Court, and P.D. Kode took over the trial. The court examined 684 witnesses, a process that lasted till October 2000. The prosecution and defence arguments went on till 2002. In 2003, Mustafa Dossa was produced before the court, but his trial was separated from the others, as was the trial of another gangster, Abu Salem, who had been extradited from Portugal in 2006. The trial ended in 2003, with the court reserving its judgment.

In August 2006, Justice Kode began dictating the verdict, which concluded in September 2006. The court acquitted 23 of the accused and convicted 100; 12 were given the death penalty and 20 got life sentences. (After appeals, in 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence to Yakub Memon, Tiger’s brother, and commuted the death sentences of 10 others to life terms. Yakub was hanged in July 2015.)

The trials of Salem and Dossa — and five others accused of being core conspirators — began in 2007, and took 10 years to reach a verdict. On May 16, 2017, the court ruled that Salem, Dossa, Firoz Rashid Khan, Taher ‘Taklya’ Merchant, Karimullah Shaikh and Riyaz Siddiqui had conspired to execute the blasts; it acquitted Abdul Shaikh. In June, before sentencing, Mustafa Dossa had a cardiac arrest in jail and died.

Still evading justice are 27 of the key accused suspected to be in Pakistan. India and Pakistan have no extradition treaty, so it seems unlikely that they will be brought to trial.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 8:13:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/in-mumbai-a-blasts-conviction-and-after/article19699816.ece

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