The 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai was the first terror attack in which RDX was used on a large scale since the World War II, the Supreme Court on Thursday said while dealing with the havoc caused by 12 coordinated explosions in the country's financial capital.
Priya Dutt breaks down after the SC verdict against her brother Sanjay Dutt. Arijit Sen/HT
"This was the first ever terrorist attack in the world where RDX (Research Department Explosive) was used on a large scale basis after the World War II," the apex court said.
The blasts took place at several sites including the Bombay Stock Exchange and Air India building that killed 257 people and injured 713.
A series of powerful explosions, in which RDX was used for the first time in India, had severely damaged Bombay Stock Exchange building, Air India Building, Century Bazaar at Worli, Katha Bazaar, Plaza theatre in Dadar, five-star hotels Centaur at Juhu, Centaur at Santa Cruz and Sea Rock at Bandra.
The blasts had also taken place at Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar and a petrol pump adjoining Shiv Sena Bhavan. Hand grenades were lobbed at the fishermen's colony in Mahim and at Bay-52 of the Sahar International Airport.
Death to Yakub Memon, Dutt to be jailed
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, a key conspirator with Dawood Ibrahim in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, and ordered that Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt return to jail to serve three-and-a-half years sentence for possessing illegal arms.
Bringing the curtain down on the 20-year-long judicial proceedings, the apex court said 33 others will serve rigorous jail term "for their whole life" and termed as "devastating" the role played by Pakistan and its spy agency ISI in training and supporting conspirators in hatching the plot for the blasts in the financial capital claiming 257 lives.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan, however, commuted the sentence of death penalty of 10 others, who had planted RDX explosives-laden vehicles at various places in Mumbai, awarded by the special TADA court, to life term by distinguishing their roles with that of the Memon.
"...we confirm the death reference with regard to Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and commute the death sentence into life imprisonment for rest (ten) of the appellants convicted under this part," said the bench, which delivered its judgement in six parts running into 2,198 pages.
53-year-old Dutt, who is out on bail, will also have to surrender within four weeks to serve a jail term of 42 months as the apex court reduced to five years the six year jail term awarded to him by a designated TADA court in 2007 and he had already spent 18 months behind the bar.
Dutt, son of famous bollywood couple late Sunil Dutt and Nargis, was convicted by the TADA court for illegal possession of a 9 mm Pistol and a AK-56 rifle which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought to India for the coordinated serial blasts.
The court refused to grant leniency to Dutt for releasing him under probation, saying the nature of offence was 'serious".
"The circumstances and nature of the offence as analysed and discussed above are so serious and we are of the view that they do not warrant Dutt the benefit of the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act. However, taking note of various aspects, we reduce the sentence to minimum period, viz., 6 years to 5 years. The appeal is disposed of on the above terms," the bench said.
Dealing with case of Yakub Memon, a chartered accountant by profession and brother of proclaimed offender Tiger Memon, the court said he was the "driving force" and a "mastermind" behind the blasts that rocked 12 crowded areas in Mumbai leaving 257 dead and over 700 injured.
The court also said the ten other convicts on death row were people of lower strata in the society and were without any regular jobs and had fallen prey to the main conspirators for their "hidden motives".
"Since Memon as well as other absconders (Dawood and others) were the real conspirators who hatched the scheme for such a tragic act, the 10 appellants were mere subservient subordinates whose knowledge and acquaintance might have been restricted to their counterparts. If we say it in a metaphoric style, he (Yakub) and all the absconding accused were the archers whereas rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands," it said.
"Technically, it is these 10 appellants who parked the explosive filled vehicles in the respective destinations, however, if we do lift the veil it is actually the masterminds strategy, which was executed by the subservient minions i.e the appellants. This may not help in complete exoneration of the liability of these 10 appellants but the degree of punishment must necessarily reflect this difference. It is vital to remember that 'but for' the masterminds, this blast should have never seen the daylight," it said.
The bench, perusing confessional statements of convicts, said Pakistan provided "green channel entry and exit" to various accused without observing any immigration formalities and gave training to use explosives and arms to the accused.
"The accused arrived in Pakistan for training and they were received by ISI operatives who took them out of the airport without observing any immigration formalities. Meaning thereby, they had a green channel entry and exit in Pakistan. Another confession reveals that they received training from the ISI officials themselves on some occasions. These events unveil the tolerance and encouragement shown by Pakistan towards terrorism," it said.