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Theatre blasts: two convicted, 4 acquitted

A sessions court here on Monday convicted two persons, allegedly linked to the Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha, of conspiring and carrying out blasts at theatres around Mumbai in 2008. Four other accused charged with the same offences were acquitted of all charges against them.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had in 2009 chargesheeted six suspects for planting bombs in drama and cinema theatres in Panvel, Thane and Vashi.

Sessions Judge N.V. Nhavkar convicted Ramesh Hanumant Gadkari (53) and Vikram Vinay Bhave (29) of offences under Sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 201 (removing evidence, or giving false information to screen offender), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs.50) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The two were also convicted of damaging property under Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act; for possession and use of explosives under Sections 3,4,5 of the Explosive Substances Act and for manufacture, possession or importation of specially dangerous explosives under section 9 (B) of the Explosives Act.

Although Gadkari and Bhave were charge-sheeted for engaging in terrorist activities under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and for attempt to murder, the court did not convict them under these charges.

Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian said the main thrust of the prosecution's case had been rejected.

“My thrust was on the UAPA. It's a terrorist act. The main case was the intention to strike terror in the minds of people. Circumstantial evidence is difficult to prove. Direct evidence cannot be there. Why the court disbelieved the witnesses [is not known].”

ATS constable Pramod Tekavade, who had been following the case, called the verdict “disappointing.”

After the verdict was delivered, defence lawyer Sanjeev Punalikar told the court that he would appeal for clemency under the Probation of Offenders Act as the accused had spent three years in prison.

“The terrorist Act is not applicable. Since the attempt to murder charge has been [dropped], the seriousness of the case is lost. Gadkari is a grandfather and Bhave has a three-year-old daughter. Therefore, the benefit [of] kindness of the court [may be given to them],” Mr. Punalikar told the court.

The accused acquitted are Mangesh Dinkar Nikam (37), Santosh Sitaram Angre (29), Hemant Tukaram Chalke (40) and Haribhau Krishna Divekar (47).

Gadkari said: “We have to accept the verdict. We have a spiritual disposition. We accept whatever is there.”

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 2:36:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/theatre-blasts-two-convicted-4-acquitted/article2409718.ece

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