Quantum of punishment in 1993 blasts case due soon: Vignettes and lessons from the TADA court trial
Kode stated that the attack, as per its original plan, had the potential to lead to a major emergency, which would have left the commercial capital of the country as well as India pining for months.
Welcoming the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court’s recent decision in the second leg of the 1993 Mumbai blasts trial, convicting six of the seven accused, retired justice Pramod Kode, who pronounced 123 persons guilty for the attacks in 2007, stated that the coordinated explosions, as opposed to the prosecution’s case, were more than just a retaliatory blow following the Babri Masjid demolition. Kode feels that the intent was to create a national crisis, and had the plan been executed exactly as per the blueprint in the terrorists’ minds, the repercussions would have been far catastrophic.
Kode, who presided over the trial in the country for eleven years between 1996 and 2007 said:
“Demolition of Babri Masjid was an act that deserved to be condemned. It did create discontent, but it would not evoke such a response. These men, who perpetrated the attacks, were radicalised under a religious guise with the mosque’s demolition for an immediate hook. The conspirators wanted to destabilise India, create chaos, and terrorise us”
Kode stated that the attack, as per its original plan, had the potential to lead to a major emergency, which would have left the commercial capital of the country as well as India pining for months. He illustrated his statement with the attack near the Bombay Stock Exchange building, stating how a devastating economic crisis was averted since the attackers were not allowed to park their car (laden with bombs) in the building’s basement. It was a diligent security guard who recognised that the car was not one of the regular ones, and asked the driver to park it outside. Had the car been allowed to be parked in the basement, the explosion would have brought the entire building down, leading to a crash of economy. A similar disaster was averted at the Air India building as well, said Kode, due to another watchful security guard. He added that the ploy to destabilise the country also ensured that it hit tourism on a major scale by targeting the international airport, markets, and three premier hotels.
“Apart from the twelve bomb explosions, the terrorists had also planned a shootout at the headquarters of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) while an important meeting was in progress on the afternoon of 12 March, 1993. They had also got into a van, and left for their target. However, when their van was passing by the passport office, it suffered some damage because of the explosion which took place there. A detonator in their van came alive, and the terrorists panicked. They aborted the BMC shootout plan, rushed to Worli, and abandoned the vehicle there. Later, several detonators and weapons, including AK-47s were retrieved from the van. Investigations revealed that it belonged to the Memons (brothers Tiger and Yakub Memon, main conspirators in the case),” said Kode, who went on to pronounce Yakub guilty for the attacks. He was subsequently hanged while Tiger is still wanted in connection with the blasts.
In light of the recent TADA court verdict in the case, when asked if the longest-running trial in the country could have been expedited in any way, Kode stated that the coordinated attack was unlike any other case. While a general murder case has a maximum of fifty eyewitnesses, the 1993 Mumbai blasts trial initially recorded 4000, of which, 684 were subsequently examined. A total of 38,000 questions were asked to the 123 accused persons in the case, and since each response needed to be recorded, every question took an average of three to fifteen minutes. Investigation records in the case comprised of 60,000 pages while the total evidence recorded in the case ran into 15 to 16,000 pages. Further, till computers became available to courts, the court had to record evidence via typewriters which only covered 11 to 15 pages a day, thereby slowing the process. With computers being made available in 1999, their speed increased to 30 to 35 pages a day.
“This trial was not about one incident alone. It was many incidents, right from December 1992 to 12 March, 1993. There were 148 different accused belonging to different groups and different places – Bombay, Dubai, Raigad, Thane, Pakistan. There was bulk evidence, and several acts that led to the inference of conspiracy. It’s not easy, participating in such a trial. It requires a lot of zeal, a lot of patience, and the recent verdict is one which reinstates faith in law and order, in the Indian judiciary. It shows that no matter how tiring, legal circles in India do see completion.”
Speaking about main conspirators Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, who are two of the over thirty alleged absconders in the case, Kode said that with the globalisation of crime, it is imperative that all countries in the world recognise the “disease,” and sign an extradition treaty so that fugitives in the 1993 blasts trial, among other wanted men, can also be brought to justice.
“Even in the 1993 blasts trial, there are some accused who have been extradited from the countries they were hiding in. However, there are a few others who have sought refuge in countries that India does not have an (extradition) treaty with. The fugitives are aware that if they take shelter in such a country, they cannot be brought back until India signs a treaty with them, and they take advantage of this fact. Preventive measures like sealing borders in the aftermath of such crimes are important, but it is also essential that we impress upon the world that such offences are offences against the entire world, and that men who have committed crimes these need to be sent back for their lawful trials,” said Kode, adding that he is hopeful that some day, Dawood and his henchmen will be brought back to the country, and made answerable for the 257 lost lives and over 700 injured people.
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