Thirteen years after serial blasts killed 257 people in Mumbai, a TADA court on Tuesday pronounced its first verdict, convicting three brothers and a sister-in-law of prime accused Tiger Memon, who is absconding.
Three other members of the Memon family -- Tiger Memon's mother, another brother and another sister-in-law -- were let off by Judge PD Kode, who gave them the benefit of doubt. The court will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on Wednesday.
Tiger Memon's brothers Yakub, Essa, Yusuf and sister-in-law Rubina were found guilty of conspiracy for the 13 serial blasts -- including at the Bombay Stock Exchange building and the Air-India headquarters -- in Mumbai on March 12, 1993.
Tiger Memon's brother Suleiman, mother Hanifa and sister-in-law Rahin were acquitted by the judge, who will deliver the verdict in batches of eight as a larger number -- 123 -- of people, including actor Sanjay Dutt, are accused in the case. Legal experts said it would take the court over two months to pronounce the final judgment. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told HT: "The method adopted by the court is unique and it is happening for the first time. It won't take less than two months for the court to hand over the judgment."
Tiger Memon's father Abdul Razzak was also an accused but the case against him was closed after he died during the course of the trial.
After the judge announced the verdict, an angry Yakub Memon, a chartered accountant, shouted expletives and said his family did not want any lawyer to argue on its behalf for the quantum of sentence. "We have seen that for the last 13 years innocent people have been labelled terrorists. We do not need anyone to protect us," Yakub said.
In its chargesheet, the CBI had claimed the blasts were masterminded by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim with the help of his lieutenants Tiger Memon and Mohammed Dossa, at the instance of Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Dawood, Memon and Dossa are absconding. While Dawood was already abroad when the blasts occurred, Memon and Dossa fled a day before.
The trial, held in a court inside a prison complex for security reasons, began in June 1995 and concluded in 2003.