The >seven peak-hour serial explosions on July 11, 2006 in Mumbai came as a blow to the collective consciousness of Maximum City. For months after the explosions, daily commuters entered the compartments of suburban trains, rightly called the lifelines of Mumbai, with suspicion in their eyes, and fear in their hearts, every single day. The task of securing the lives of 7.5 million daily commuters against attacks still remains a challenge. In these nine years, the Railways spent over Rs. 10 crore to upgrade security on the Central and Western Railway systems. From a situation where there were virtually no CCTV cameras, the suburban train lines now have over 3,600 cameras. But Mumbaikars know in their hearts that while commuting on the train network they are really on their own in a city that has faced seven major terror attacks since 1993 — three of them on its trains.
The 2006 train bombings killed 189 people; in terms of numbers it is second only to 257 victims in the 1993 serial bombings. The trial of the 1993 serial bombings case took 14 agonising years, but Judge Y.D. Shinde has managed to complete this trial in less than five years. At least two more terror trials including the Aurangabad arms haul case of 2006 and the Malegaon bombings case of 2008 are still pending in Maharashtra. Mumbai’s two worst terror attacks make for a strong case to expedite terror trials through fast-track courts. It will not only help bring quicker closure to the victims and reduce their helplessness in the face of a tardy justice system, but also aid the rehabilitation of unfortunate people like Abdul Wahid Shaikh, a 37-year-old teacher who has now been acquitted after nine years in jail. The final verdict in this case will be significant as it will be the first major terror case after the >July 30 hanging of Yakub Memon to bring into focus the question of the death penalty. The Law Commission of India in its draft report >recommended speedy abolition of the death penalty for all crimes except those involving terrorism. The defence team led by advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry, a strong voice against the death penalty, has made pertinent points before the court. He submitted that the Law Commission’s August 2015 report points out that only 4.3 per cent of all death sentences awarded by trial courts were upheld by the Supreme Court; the rest either resulted in acquittals or were commuted. Arguing that the train blasts case rests merely on the confessions of the accused, which may be a basis for conviction, he urged the court to award the death penalty only if culpability is absolutely certain. Now, Judge Shinde has the task of defining the direction of the debate on capital punishment with his verdict.