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Bomb blasts case trial in final stages
By MH Lakdawala, Mumbai

The trial in the 1993 bomb blasts case, which is in its final stages, is only six months away from a historical judgment with the recent conclusion of recording of evidence on behalf of the prosecution, and the recording of statements of the accused under Sec 313 CrPC. This means that the beginning of 2002 may herald the conclusion of the case and the judgment.

With a special court recording the statements of 124 accused, including film star Sanjay Dutt, the marathon bomb blast trial concluded after six years thereby earning the distinction of being the longest in the judicial history.

After the prosecution leads its evidence, every one of the accused is presented with the circumstances recorded against him and asked to give his explanation. That process ended recently, according to defence lawyers Majeed Memon and Satish Maneshinde.

The judge will now examine if any of the accused is entitled to a discharge, which can happen if the evidence against him is unsatisfactory. This stage is a landmark for any trial, said advocate Memon.
According to Mr Memon Thereafter, the judge will ask each accused if he wants to be examined under oath, as a defence witness. "That would also make him liable for cross-examination. At this stage he can also examine any witness or submit any documents".

However, it is not certain how many witnesses the defence will call in. Advocate Niteen Pradhan, who was associated with the trial since its inception but had to withdraw due to infirmity, has again resumed the defence of the 10 accused.

He stated in the court that he would like to produce some witnesses. "I have not made up my mind on how many witnesses should be brought into the box. It could be between 10-20 which is what I told the judge," Pradhan said.

According to Pradhan the defence's witness will take five weeks after which the prosecution will make its final submissions and further arguments that will take another six weeks. Subsequently, the defence will counter-argue the case and make its final submissions. The entire procedure is likely to take four months.

Special judge Pramod Kode of the designated TADA court who is presiding over the trial will deliver the judgment. "As per my calculations, the judgment should come in either by December end or January next year," Pradhan asserted.

Film actor and an accused in the bomb blast case, Sanjay Dutt, denied that film producer Samir Hingora and Ibrahim Moosa Chavan had visited his residence in a Maruti car laden with arms and ammunition prior to the 1993 explosions.

The CBI has alleged that Dutt accepted an AK-56 rifle from the accused and asked them to take away other weapons. When Samir Hingora and his associate Hanif Kadawala were held after the blasts they told the police about the rifle kept by Dutt.

The actor alleged that he was shown other accused in the blasts case being subjected to third degree measures at the city crime branch and told he would face similar treatment unless he signed the confessional statement prepared by then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) K L Bishnoi.
When he was produced before DCP Bishnoi on April 26, 1993, he had never consented to make a confessional statement that he possessed an AK-56 rifle and .9mm pistol as later claimed by police.

I was also tricked and coerced into signing the confessional statement by another police official DCP Rakesh Maria who pretended to be a sympathizer. DCP Maria had said his father was a film producer and therefore he could sympathize with me said Dutt.

"If you trust me, then sign the statement prepared by DCP Bishnoi who is my good friend", Dutt quoted DCP Maria as saying. DCP Maria had then advised him to sign the confessional statement as otherwise his release could not be ordered, Dutt claimed.

Reiterating his innocence, Dutt denied that he had any links with underworld personalities including some of them who were charge sheeted as accused in the blasts case. Several years before the blasts, when he had gone to Dubai for the shooting of Yalghaar, it was producer Feroz Khan who introduced him to Dawood Ibrahim and his brother Anees who were later charge sheeted as being among the prime accused in the case.
On Friday, March 12, 1993, Mumbai was rocked by a series of bomb blasts that targetted important buildings like the Bombay Stock Exchange, Air-India Building, Hotel Sea Rock, Hotel Juhu Centaur, Hotel Airport Centaur and commercial areas like Zaveri Bazaar, Century Bazaar and Katha Bazaar. There were also blasts near Shiv Sena Bhavan and at Plaza Theatre.

The trial is a grim reminder of serial explosions, which rocked the metropolis, killing 257 persons and maiming 713 others besides damaging property worth Rs 30 crore.

A record number of 13,000 pages have been recorded as evidence by 684 witnesses examined by CBI. Altogether 38070 questions were put to the accused to record their statements. In all, 124 accused are facing the trial, which commenced on June 30; 1995.The charge sheet was filed on November 4, 1993 against 136 accused. Thirty-one accused are in custody while the rest, including Sanjay Dutt, are on bail. Abu Asim Azmi and Amjad Mehr Baksh were discharged by the Supreme Court while co-accused Riaz Khatri Jumped bail. Two others, Hamid Dafedar and Harba Hari Khopatkar passed away.
Seven accused --Salim Kurla, Majeed Khan, Shakil Ahmed, Mohammad Jindran, Hanif Kadawala, Akabar Abu Sama Khan, Mohammad Jabir Abdul Latif-- were killed either by rival gangsters or in police encounters. Of the 124 accused, two had turned approvers. They stepped into the witness box in June 1995 and unfolded the prosecution story that Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon had masterminded the blasts in the aftermath of demolition of disputed structure in Ayodhya.
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