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7/11 blasts: Court likely to pronounce sentence today

BlastNine years after a series of bomb blasts in suburban local trains rattled Mumbai killing 188 people, a special court is likely to pronounce the quantum of punishment for 12 convicts in the case on Wednesday.

Special Judge Yatin D Shinde had last week concluded hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence when prosecution demanded death penalty for 8 of the 12 accused while it sought life imprisonment for the remaining four. On September 23, the Special MCOCA court had reserved its order on sentencing in the case for September 30. Earlier, on September 11, it had convicted 12 of the 13 accused, all allegedly having links with banned SIMI, while acquitting one. The accused were found guilty of charges under IPC, Explosives Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and Indian Railway Act and those under MCOCA.

The court also found all the 12 accused guilty under Section 3 (1) (i) of MCOCA, which could also attract capital punishment. Those convicted are Kamal Ahmed Ansari (37), Tanvir Ahmed Ansari (37), Mohd Faisal Shaikh (36), Ehtesham Siddiqui (30), Mohammad Majid Shafi (32), Shaikh Alam Shaikh (41), Mohd Sajid Ansari (34), Muzzammil Shaikh (27), Soheil Mehmood Shaikh (43), Zamir Ahmed Shaikh (36), Naveed Hussain Khan (30) and Asif Khan (38).

After 12 accused were found guilty, Judge Shinde, later, allowed the defence lawyers to examine witnesses to bring out the mitigating circumstances in the case.  Defence lawyers subsequently examined nine witnesses to show the court that the accused have undergone reformation and thus may not be given capital punishment. The list of witnesses included the relatives of accused, doctors, teachers etc while one of the convicts examined another accused in Mumbai 2012 serial blasts. After the examination of witnesses, the defence advocates pleaded leniency saying that the 12 convicts were merely the pawns of mastermind Azam Cheema, member of Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

They also pointed out that the convicts faced several hardships in jail and that was also one of the mitigating circumstances. On the other hand, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare called the convicts “merchants of death” and pressed for capital punishment to eight of the twelve convicts. Thakare also told the court that (social) thinkers feel that why money of honest taxpayers should be spent and government burdened for the upkeep of these convicts.

He also argued that the court may, if it feels, take a lenient view of four convicts and grant them life term. During the investigations, 13 accused, all of them Indians, were arrested and brought to trial. The charge sheet filed by Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in November 2006 had named 30 accused, out of which 17 of them are absconding. The absconding which comprise 13 Pakistan nationals, include Azam Cheema, an alleged Lashker-e-Taiba member. The ATS charge sheet had said that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were made in a room in Govandi in suburban Mumbai and some Pakistani nationals were also present during the bomb-making. Seven RDX bombs had exploded in the first class coaches in many suburban trains on July 11, 2006, killing 188 people and injuring 829.

In the trial that ran for eight long years, the prosecution examined 192 witnesses, including eight Indian Police Service (IPS) and five Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers as well as 18 doctors. The defence lawyers examined 51 witnesses and one person was called as a court witness. The blast occurred within a span of 10 minutes between Khar Road-Santacruz, Bandra-Khar Road, Jogeshwari-Mahim Junction, Mira Road- Bhayander, Matunga- Mahim Junction and Borivali. The MCOCA judge had concluded the trial on August 19 last year. The examination of witnesses resumed after two years since the Supreme Court had stayed the trial in 2008. Before the stay, the prosecution had already examined a police officer. The Supreme Court vacated the stay on April 23, 2010.

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