A trial court has found 12 of the 13 accused guilty of planning and executing the horrific train bombings in Mumbai on July 11, 2006. This verdict is, however, unlikely to bring closure to a case whose investigation has been mired in controversy from the beginning.
A total of 188 people were killed and 816 injured when seven bombs went off in 11 minutes during the evening rush hour on Mumbai’s locals; the last of the victims, Parag Sawant, died in July this year after drifting in and out of coma while his family stood vigil by his hospital bed for the last nine years.
The Mumbai police’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which investigated the case, questioned hundreds of people before arresting the 13 men. The ATS filed a charge sheet on November 29, 2006, saying 18 Indians and 12 Pakistanis had conspired to assemble the explosives and plant them to do maximum damage.
However, things became complicated when two years later the Mumbai Police’s crime branch arrested Mohammed Sadiq Israr Sheikh , a man they said was co-founder of a home-grown terror outfit, Indian Mujahideen. Sadiq, in a videotaped confession, copies of which were made available to Hindustan Times and other media organisations, claimed he and four of his associates in the IM had carried out the blasts.
Sadiq recanted later and told the court he had been coerced into making the confession, but the doubt that innocent men may have arrested was not dispelled. The defence lawyers had all along argued that due process was not followed and that the people picked had nothing to do with the crime.
For the investigators, Friday’s verdict by the trial court will come as a vindication after years of facing innuendoes but the legal battle is far from over.
The defence lawyers will raise all manner of objection in the higher courts, including perceived lapses in investigations. Therein lies a lesson for the security agencies to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and accountability, follow the law, in letter and spirit, and eschew shortcuts while engaged in the undoubtedly difficult task of safeguarding the interests of the nation and the people.
Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done. However, where does all this leave the families of the victims whose lives have been devastated by the heartless acts of twisted minds?It is cold comfort to those who lose loved ones to be told the law will take its course. The least they could expect is that the real perpetrators of such dastardly acts are identified beyond the shadow of any doubt and brought to book. There can really be no excuses.