Describing the July 11, 2006, Mumbai train bombings as “mindless, cold-blooded and wanton killing of innocent defenceless and unsuspecting persons,” a special MCOCA court has held that five persons were given death for taking the last step of planting bombs and pulling the trigger.
On September 30, the court sentenced Kamal Ansari, Faisal Shaikh, Estesham Siddiqui, Naveed Khan and Asif Bashir Khan to death. The remaining seven accused were awarded life imprisonment. A copy of the court’s judgment was made available on Wednesday.
In his judgment, special MCOCA judge Y.D. Shinde observed that all the 12 accused were in fact guilty of offences punishable by death. But the last step of actually planting the bombs was taken by five accused. That made them the most culpable.
The court ruled out the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen and accepted the ATS’ contention that the blasts were the handiwork of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. It faulted other investigating agencies for falling for the tactics of the Indian Mujahideen to confuse investigators. Sadique Sheikh, an alleged IM operative, confessed to his role in the blasts, but later retracted. He was arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch, but was eventually discharged from the case.
Sadique’s confession was “obviously a plan to disorient the investigating machinery,” the court said. “How far the plan was successful is evident from the manner in which higher ups in the police fell prey to it and made irresponsible and inconsistent statements.”
It praised the ATS for conducting a “deep investigation” of Sadique’s claims to rule out the IM angle.
Pakistan’s hand The judgment notes the involvement of Pakistan in the blasts. A witness had described a meeting with six persons holding Pakistani passports accompanying the accused Majid Mohammad Shafi. The prosecution had proved using his evidence that A5 [Shafi] had brought six persons holding Pakistani passports from Bongaon, near the Bangladesh border, to Kolkata sometime in the second or third week of May, 2006, on way to Mumbai. “The inference that the persons were Pakistanis can very well be drawn from his [witness’s] evidence…”
However, while describing the act of plating bombs, the judgment does not say that one in each pair of planters was a Pakistani. The court has directed the prosecution to file a separate charge sheet against the 15 wanted accused in the case, including Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Pakistani commander-in-chief Azam Cheema and a few other Pakistani nationals.
The court approved of the prosecution’s description of the accused as “merchants of death” and said death was the “appropriate” penalty for them.
It accepted the prosecution’s contention that the accused were not dragged into the unlawful acts. “Though the idea for the crime was generated across the border, they formed an independent organised crime syndicate on the basis of their background of being members/activists of the banned organisation SIMI.” They did the spadework and the groundwork on their own.
The court said that Faisal and Asif Bashir Khan masterminded and coordinated the entire operations and had a part to play in every aspect of the conspiracy, right from planting, preparing and recruiting, up to the final execution of the conspiracy when bombs were planted in specific local trains.
The court rejected the call data records some of the accused offered as alibi. There was no reason to assume that one would be carrying one’s mobile phone at all times and the location of a mobile phone would not conclusively prove the location of a person.