Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Bombay bomb blasts case verdict

On 21/3/2013 Supreme Court delivered its verdict in Bombay bomb blasts case which had taken place on 12/3/1993. TADA Court had sentenced 11 persons to death. Supreme Court reduced the punishment to life to 10 of them. Yakub Memon was the exception. Besides the 10 there were 22 others who got life sentence and many others got sentences ranging from one year to 10 years.
Sanjay Dutt’s sentence came down to five years from six. His crime was procuring a rifle from a gangster which he later destroyed. He had spent 18 months in jail. It means he will have to spend three and a half years in jail. He has four weeks to surrender. He can file a review petition. Other options are seeking presidential or governor’s pardon or going out of India. His sister Priya Dutt is a Congress MP and she can help but it is doubtful whether Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh will be kind towards him. He can go to a country which has no extradition treaty with India and is willing to grant him asylum or citizenship. In that case he has to dispose of his property before he leaves. Otherwise it will be confiscated. Italy may be a good country to seek refuge. Their marines were prisoners in India. If he says he did not get a fair trial in India and the verdict was wrong Italy will be glad to hear that and may grant asylum. Lot of money rides on Sanjay Dutt’s films and producers will be worried. It was difficult for Sanjay Dutt to get bail previously as he was arrested under TADA. Congress did not help him. BJP and Shiv Sena helped him. TADA was allowed to lapse because he could not get bail. Sharad Pawar was the chief minister when he was arrested. His father Sunil Dutt was an MP at the time of his arrest. He did not contest election again as long as Sharad Pawar was in Congress. After Sunil Dutt’s death Sanjay Dutt did not get Congress ticket to contest as MP. He joined Samajwadi Party through Amar Singh but could not contest election as he was convicted of an offence of more than two years imprisonment and Supreme Court did not permit him even though it had permitted Navjot Singh Sidhu. When Amar Singh left SP, Sanjay Dutt followed him.
Markandey Katju, chairman of Press Council and former Supreme Court judge, has appealed to the governor of Maharashtra K. Shankaranarayanan to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution. There is sympathy for Sanjay Dutt in Bollywood.
After I wrote the above came the news of return of Italian marines to face trial in India. Italy is not safe for Sanjay Dutt. Ecuador is an option.
It is said that 257 people died in the blasts. Some accused are out of India. Some died during trial. Yakub Memon was out of India. He came to India hoping nothing will happen to him. He claimed he was not part of the conspiracy. It seems there was some secret understanding with the police but when he came to India the police did not keep their end of the bargain. His brother had advised him against returning to India. Madhu Trehan of Newstrack had interviewed Yakub Memon on 17/8/1994. He said he did not know about the conspiracy. His brother was involved in the conspiracy and told him on 20/3/1993 in Karachi.
Two main conspirators are out of India and efforts to get them back have not succeeded. One is said to be in Karachi. When India demands his extradition the reply is he is not in Pakistan.
One death sentence in a case involving 257 deaths is too mild a punishment. The blasts had taken place in 12 places. All those who planted bombs should have got death sentence. People would not have died if they had not planted bombs. Supreme Court was wrong to say they were arrows and reduce their sentence saying the archers were in Pakistan. CBI should file a review petition against reducing of death sentences to life. It seems the judges, P. Sathasivam and B. S. Chauhan, were against death penalty. One death sentence seems tokenism. Air India Building, Bombay Stock Exchange, Passport Office vicinity, and Sea Rock Hotel were some of the places where blasts had taken place. The blasts took place after the riots that followed Babri Mosque demolition on 6/12/1992 and Radhabai Chawl burning in January 1993. Sharad Pawar who was defence minister was at loggerheads with Sudhakarrao Naik who was chief minister. Sudhakarrao Naik had to quit and P. V. Narasimha Rao sent Sharad Pawar to Maharashtra as chief minister. After the blasts it became difficult for Muslims to get accommodation in the city and suburbs.
There is talk of 1984 Delhi riots and 2002 Gujarat riots. There is no talk of 1993 Bombay riots. Champions of liberty like Nani Palkhiwala had wanted emergency. The victims are forgotten. Years later, Muslims arrested for Radhabai Chawl burning were aquitted.
Supreme Court slammed Pakistan and the role of ISI. It said Pakistan has infringed the recognised principles under international law, which obligates all states to prevent terrorist attacks emanating from their territory and inflicting injuries to other states. The accused arrived in Pakistan for training and they were received by ISI operatives. They received training from ISI officials themselves on some occasions.
Supreme Court slammed customs and police officials. The police have a specific and special role, a duty and a responsibility, to curb the conveyance of explosives by vigilant patrolling and search and seizure, if required. In the present case, police officers themselves have taken active part in smuggling and transportation of arms and explosives in Bombay. It sentenced eight police officers.
About customs officers it said it is shattering to notice that grades of customs officers, including the Commissioners of Customs, played an active role as members of conspiracy and implemented the plan. Every kind of smuggling activity is devastating to the economy, but the smuggling of dangerous arms and ammunition causes wreckage not only to the economy but also to people’s lives. But for these officials smuggling of weapons for blasts would not have been possible. It sentenced four customs officers. There is contradiction in holding customs officials responsible for blasts but not holding criminals who planted bombs responsible and calling them arrows.
On TV channels the main topic of discussion is pardon to Sanjay Dutt. It should have been leniency shown by Supreme Court to criminals who planted bombs.

Updated: March 23, 2013 — 7:30 am

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