Twenty years after terror first struck Mumbai — when 13 bombs went off across the city killing 257 people on March 12, 1993 — the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the trial court’s conviction of 98 accused of carrying out the outrage.
However, the masterminds behind the blasts, underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his brothers, and the main conspirator, Tiger Memon, remain at large.
The death sentence for Memon’s younger brother Yakub Memon, has been upheld. But 10 others the trial court sentenced to death will now spend the rest of their lives in jail as the apex court commuted their sentences saying they were poor people who had fallen prey to the machinations of the conspirators.
The blasts came within months of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, and the riots in Mumbai that followed.
A bench of justice P Sathasivam and justice BS Chauhan acquitted two persons while permitting release of a prisoner who is an AIDS patient.
His conviction was, however, upheld. The court cautioned the executive against exercising its power to remit sentences of life convicts.
While slamming Pakistan and its intelligence agency, ISI, for training the perpetrators and failing to discharge its obligation under international law to prevent terrorist attacks emanating from its territory, the court was scathing in its criticism of local police officials and the customs department for actively participating in smuggling arms and explosives used in the blasts. It upheld conviction of five customs officials and eight policemen under conspiracy charges.
Showing no mercy to Yakub Memon, the SC said: “He was part of the deliberate choosing of localities like Century Bazaar, Zaveri Bazaar, Katha Bazaar, Stock Exchange Building etc. where there was more prospect of public gathering. The manner of its execution and its design would put it at the level of extreme atrocity and cruelty.”
The primary charge sheet in the blasts case was filed around eight months after the blast against 189 accused. In Nove-mber 1993, the case was handed over to the CBI.