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Should government release Zaibunnisa Kazi on medical grounds?

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju, who is currently staying in California with his daughter, is calling upon the civil liberty organisations across the world to appeal to the Indian government for the release of Zaibunnisa Kazi. This is not the first time that Katju has pleaded for the release of Ms. Kazi. In May, 2013, Justice Katju had sent a written appeal to the President of India seeking pardon for both Dutt and Kazi.

Zaibunnisa Kazi (72), is one of the main accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case and was convicted under the TADA Act. She has been charged with hoarding illegal AK-56 rifles, bullets and hand grenades in her house. These weapons were allegedly brought to her by Abu Salem and Manzoor Ahmed Sayed Ahmed and were used in the blasts. According to Justice Katju, the old lady was convicted on weak evidence and if she will not be released, she might die in jail because of her ailing condition. The only evidence against her was that of a retracted confession of a co-accused. She had undergone a kidney operation and has other ailments. She has to be medically examined frequently.

In 1993, a series of 13 bomb explosions took place in Mumbai on Friday, 12 March 1993. The coordinated attacks were the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian history. The single-day attacks resulted in over 350 fatalities and 1200 injuries. The attacks were coordinated by Dawood Ibrahim. Ibrahim is believed to have ordered and helped organising the bombings in Mumbai, through one of his subordinates, Tiger Memon. The bombings are also believed to have been financially assisted by the expatriate Indian smugglers, Haji Ahmed, Haji Umar and Taufiq Jaliawala, as well as the Pakistani smugglers, Aslam Bhatti and Dawood Jatt. The Indian authorities have also alleged the involvement of the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in the blasts.

In December 1992 and January 1993, there was widespread rioting in Mumbai following the 6 December destruction of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Two thousand people died in the post Ayodhya incident, and a series of riots soon erupted throughout the nation, most notably in Mumbai. After five years following the December–January riots, the Srikrishna Commission Report stated that nine hundred individuals, lost their lives and over two thousand were injured.

Three days before the bombings took place on 9 March 1993, a small time hood from the Behrampada slum in Bandra named Gul Noor Mohammad Sheikh a.k.a. “Gullu” was detained at the Nirmal Nagar police station. Gullu was also one of the 19 men handpicked by the gold smuggler and chief mastermind, Tiger Memon and sent to Pakistan via Dubai on 19 February 1993, for training of the use of arms and bomb making. The arrest of Gul Mohammed spurred Tiger Memon to advance the date of the blasts which were to coincide with the Shiv Jayanti celebrations in April 1993 to 12 March to pre-empt any police action. Many hundreds of people were arrested and detained.

In February 2007, prosecutors asked for the death penalty for forty-four of the hundred convicted. The prosecution also requested the death penalty for those convicted of conspiracy in the case. Asghar Yusuf Mukadam and Shahnawaz Qureshi, who have been found guilty for involvement in the blasts pleaded for leniency, claiming that they were not terrorists and were emotionally driven to participate in the act. Mukadam claimed that the main conspirators took advantage of his “frame of mind” after the demolition of Babri Masjid and the subsequent riots, alleging police partiality during the riots. “Vested interests” instigated him to act as he did. Qureshi was trained in Pakistan to handle arms and ammunition. He and Mukadam parked the explosive filled vehicle at Plaza cinema, Mumbai which resulted in 10 deaths and 37 injuries. Some of the conspirators, who managed to flee out of India after the bombings were arrested and extradited to India later on. These conspirators were declared absconders during the course of the trial. Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa, Firoz Khan, Taher Merchant, Riyaz Siddiqui and Abdul Qayyum amongst others were arrested and trial continued against these absconders in a special TADA court in Mumbai.

Zaibunnisa Kazi, whose case is similar to Sanjay Dutt. Dutt was held guilty for possession of arms, given to him by gangster Abu Salem, and their subsequent destruction. Some of the weapons from this cache were kept at Kazi’s suburban Bandra house for a few days. Both Kazi and Dutt were charged under TADA Act for aiding and abetting a terrorist act and the Arms Act. However, Dutt was held guilty only under the Arms Act, while Kazi was convicted under TADA too. Kazi’s daughter later gave explanation saying, her mother knew Abu Salem as a real estate agent. There was no recovery from their house of any weapon. The 72-year-old has maintained that she has done nothing and has demanded a re-investigation into her role in the case. Zaibunnisa had mentioned in her petition that she was being treated for kidney cancer and her condition was worsening day by day. She not only required constant medical attention but also needed an attendant. She had said that she would not be able to survive in jail. She had said that a petition under Article 72 has been filed on her behalf before the President, seeking pardon of her punishment.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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