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Mumbai serial bomb blasts trials enter final phase
By MH Lakdawala

Mumbai: The trial into the Mumbai serial bomb blasts which began on June 30, 1995, completes seven years. But the epic trial, thankfully, may not last long enough to see its eighth anniversary.

''It will take at least six months for the judge to go through all the papers and pass judgement,'' said Advocate Subhash Kanse, who has been attending the trial from day one. He estimates the case, that is now in its final stages, will be concluded by March 2003. 

The prosecution's argument is over and 108 of the accused have argued their cases. OF the 122 accused in the bomb blasts trial, the cases of only 14 now remain to be argued. Film star Sanjay Dutt's argument has been heard and arguments of seven members of alleged mastermind Tiger Memon's family began in July. According to defense lawyer arguments should conclude by the middle of August after which Judge Pramod Kode will begin passing judgement.

The court has so far recorded 13,000 pages of evidence. There are 4,000 exhibits and the statements of the accused run into 9,000 pages. In all, 38,000 questions have been asked of the accused. Judge Kode will have to refer to 30,000 pages while pronouncing the judgement.Nine years ago, on March 12, 1993, the serial bomb blasts shook Mumbai. On November 4, 1993, a charge sheet was filed in the case and trial began on June 30, 1995.

Soon after the trial began, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the investigation. An initial charge sheet was filed against 189 accused. The CBI added four more to the list of accused after it took over the case. Out of a total of 193 accused, 28 have been discharged. Gang wars and natural deaths claimed 12. Twenty-nine of the accused are absconding. And 122 are currently facing trial before the special Terrorist Activities and Disruption (Prevention) Act court.

When the trial began, the CBI had cited more than 3,000 witnesses, though it rested its case after examining 684 of them. Defence has examined one witness.

The case of the prosecution is that following Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, communal riots broke out in Mumbai in which several persons lost their lives. A total of 172 accused hatched a conspiracy within India and outside to create serial explosions in Mumbai to shatter the economy.

Two of the accused persons, who turned approver, were examined in the beginning of the trial. According to the Police both the approvers disclosed threadbare how the conspiracy was hatched and revealed that some accused were taken to Pakistan via Dubai for arms training. The prosecution also led evidence to show that RDX was used for the first time in India in this case. It was stuffed in cars and scooters in the godowns of Tiger Memon's building at Mahim in central Mumbai. 

In pursuance of the conspiracy, arms and ammunition were smuggled from Pakistan and the consignment landed at Shekhadi and Dighi coasts in Raigad district near Mumbai. A portion of this consignment was taken by Samir Hingora, Baba Chavan and Abu Salem to film star Sanjay Dutt house. The actor kept one AK-56 rifle and returned the rest of the weapons.

The lawyers told judge P D Kode there was no evidence to suggest that Dutt conspired with 172 others to commit terrorist acts in Mumbai between January and March 1993. In written submissions filed on June 25, the actor denied the charge that he had accepted from other accused three AK-56 rifles, its ammunition, 9mm pistol, its cartridges and hand grenades. He also refuted allegations that he retained one AK-56 rifle and returned other weapons.

Another bizarre aspect of the Bomb blast case came to end with the relief Judge P D Kode gave to the residents of Al-Hussaini Co-operative Society, Mahim, where the family of prime accused Tiger Memon was residing. The society was disturbed by the foul smell emitting from the decayed things from the tiger Memon that has been kept sealed since years.

The court sealed the flats in 1993 after members of the Memon family were declared absconding. Advocates Subhash Kanse and Farhana Shah filed the application on behalf of the society. The court receiver was directed to hand over the items to society members in the presence of both prosecution and defence lawyers. The society is to destroy the same at its own expense.

The Memons were accused of being the main conspirators and facilitators of the bomb blasts. Seven members of the Memon family now face charges. Alleged mastermind Tiger Memon's brothers Isa and Yakub are in custody. Two other brothers, Yusuf and Suleman, are out on bail. Tiger's mother, Hanifa, is out on interim bail, while father, Abdul Razak, died late last year. Tiger and his brother Ayub, along with their wives, have been declared absconding.

Police harassment of the Muslim youth is clear in Bomb blast cases. The arrested boys happened to be Muslims and subjected to intense humiliation by the police for being Muslims. Among the worst examples of delayed justice, is the serial bomb blasts. The trials involve multiple issues, which ought to have been separated and sequenced to ensure a meaningful trial. Instead the litigation continues at a snail's pace. The Bomb blast trial has implicated a large number of very ordinary people; many of them are guilty of nothing more than negligence or are innocent. Yet, justice is nowhere in sight, their careers have been ruined by the sheer cost of defending themselves. 

In terms of human suffering the bomb blast case is far worse then any other trial in India - several wrongly implicated persons are languishing in jail for seven years along with hardened criminals. Many have suffered total nervous break down. 

Again dealing with the Mumbai 92-93 riots and the bomb blast are a good example about the differential attitude. While the suspects involved in the blasts were and are being tried in the special TADA court and have been put behind the bar, the culprits of the riots as pointed out by the Shrikrishna Commission, are moving with great amount of assertion and confidence about their patriotism.

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