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Bomb blast verdict... and after!

Thursday, September 14, 2017
By Bharatkumar Raut

With Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon yet to be nabbed, the process of justice is still incomplete

Though the most infamous Mumbai Serial Bomb Blast Case of 1993 is declared and most of the guilty of India have been sent to jail, this process of justice is not only delayed but it still remains incomplete. Two main accused, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are still at large and till the time those main accused of the worst  atrocity that was perpetuated on Mumbai are booked and brought to justice the process would remain incomplete. Therefore, the prayer of all Mumbaikars is that all the guilties be brought to book as early as possible.

After about 25 years and an execution (of Yakub Memon in 2015) later, it is the noose again for two convicted in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case. A special judge presiding over the second trial in the case on Thursday pronounced death by hanging for Taher Merchant (55) and Feroz Khan (47), both of whom were absconding till 2010, for having conspired to cause the RDX blasts that killed 257 and injured 713. The court sentenced five of the seven accused on trial (one was acquitted in June and one died after conviction). Extradited gangster Abu Salem (48) and Karimullah Khan (55) were spared the noose-Salem by virtue of a Lisbon court order saying he could not be given death and Khan by Tada court judge G A Sanap. The fifth convict, Riyaz Siddiqui (67), guilty of the lesser charge of abetment, was handed a 10-year sentence. He has already been in jail for 11years since his arrest in 2006.

Prominent Landmarks Targeted
With this one of the chapters of the long-drawn episode of terrorism seem to have come to an end. The blasts, which turned a Friday afternoon into a tragic weekend, had targeted prominent landmarks including the Air India building and Bombay Stock Exchange. The bombs were assembled in the garage at prime absconding accused Tiger Memon's Mahim house and packed into cars and scooters, which were then parked at various spots by planters. The Supreme Court in 2013 commuted the death sentence given to 10 of the planters, calling them “bows“ and the blast conspirators “the archers“.

The long and most eagerly awaited judgement took place in the TADA Court on Thursday. The court first called out Karimullah Khan. His relief was palpable when he heard “life imprisonment" and a fine of a few Lakhs. Salem was next and then Siddiqui. The two big punishments were pronounced last. Taher Merchant and Feroz Khan were given the death sentence for having conspired to cause the co-ordinated 1993 Mumbai blasts, while Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan were given life terms. Riyaz Siddiqui got a 10-year sentence. CBI special counsel Deepak Salvi had sought death for four, including Karimullah Khan and Mustafa Dossa, brother of prime absconding accused Mohammed Dossa, held guilty of plotting the blasts. But Dossa died in custody on June 28 before the sentencing and the trial against him stood abated.

The Judge was very categorical about the accused's knowledge of their crime, the judgment said, “RDX cannot be used as a powder to kill mosquitoes and flies, and it cannot be assumed that AK-56 rifles were being distributed in schools in Mumbai as toys. The accused had knowledge about the offence." This observation demolished the defense argument that the accused were not fully aware of the seriousness of using RDX and highly modernized lethal weapons; those were used in the crime.

The moot question that has been raised before and after the trial was that of punishment awarded to Abu Salem. The conspiracy charge against Salem could have attracted the maximum punishment but for the Portugal court order. Salem has argued he cannot be jailed for more than 25 years, as assured by Indian government. Many arguments came forth in this regard. Yes, Salem surrendered to the Indian Police in Lisbon, Portugal.  Though the crimes behind his name did attract such sections of Indian Penal Code, those deserve punishment of hanging, However, the Public Prosecutor who fought the case on behalf of the Government, had to go soft on Salem and plead sentence of only 25 years, as that was one of the major terms of the understanding that had reached with the Portuguese Government. Salem must be grateful to his God and the Portuguese Constitution that does not permit death Sentence.

What many legal and political luminaries are asking now is has the then Government failed in its negotiations with the Portuguese Government? Another more relevant question is, are we lowering the prestige of Indian Sovereignty to save the life of a criminal? While respecting the articles of Portuguese Constitution, are we not disregarding the Judicial System of India that is considered in highest regard all over the world?

And even after considering for the sake of argument that India was compelled to accept terms put by Portugal ten years ago, as bringing Salem back to India was then the top priority, why Indian diplomacy could not alter the terms of extradition later? Particularly when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received rousing welcome in Lisbon? Was it just an oversight? or is it that the Indian government never wanted Salem to hang? Anyway, now that Salem has already spent over ten years in jail since he was arrested, he would be serving the jail term for the next 15 years. Then he will be again a free citizen.

International criminals
The question of the top-most international criminal Dawood Ibrahim and his close ally Tiger Memon is still haunting the Indian Police and other Security Forces. a couple of times, red corner notices have been issued against them by Interpol as both of them are wanted by many nations for various crimes. However, they still remain out of the clutches of the law as the Pakistani Government has provided them shelter; it is an open secret now. Now the least the Indian Government can and should do is to get hold of Dawood and Tiger by using any means and force. Remember, the US Forces had tracked down Al Qaeda Leader Osama Bin Laden from his hide-out in a remote village in interior Pakistan and finished him without even the knowledge of the local government. If USA can do it from 25 thousand km distance, surely Indian forces can do it from a stone throw distance.

The issue should not be seen as witch-hunting or of taking revenge only, it’s a matter of national pride apart national security. Therefore it is the responsibility to ensure that Tiger Memon and Dawood Memon are arrested wherever they are and brought before justice.

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