A court convicted 12 people on Friday for their role in a series of blasts that ripped through packed Mumbai local trains in July 2006, killing 188 people and wounding over 800, but survivors said the verdict came too late.
A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court convicted the men of murder, conspiracy and waging war against the country but acquitted one suspect accused of allowing Pakistani nationals to live in his house.
The court will decide on the quantum of sentence on Monday with the convicts facing either execution or life in prison. Officials said the prosecution examined 192 witnesses and the defence examined 51 while over 5500-pages of evidence was produced in the case.
"I think this is justice for all the people who died and those who were injured," said KP Raghuvanshi, former anti-terrorism squad(ATS) chief, who was part of the blasts probe while the convicts’ lawyer said he would appeal against the decision in a higher court.
But several victims said the decision had come too late and they hadn’t been given adequate medical support or compensation since the attack.
“No punishment will be able to ease the suffering we went through in the last nine years,” said an elderly victim. Others wanted the terrorists hanged."The verdict came very late. Nine years is a long time. Everyone should have been convicted and punished. No one responsible for the insane attack should be set free," said Dashrath Patel.
The scene at a blast site. (HT File Photo)
Seven blasts tore through the first-class compartments of crowded local trains in a span of just 11 minutes on July 11, 2006, during evening rush hour when millions of office-goers were heading home.
Investigators said around 20kg of RDX were packed into pressure cookers, placed in bags and hidden under newspapers and umbrellas.
The ATS said the suspects were linked to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India and were helped by Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) to hatch the conspiracy that prompted New Delhi to freeze peace talks with Islamabad.
The suspects targeted local trains as they were crowded and the security wasn’t as tight as the other sites they surveyed, police said. They divided themselves into seven teams, each consisting of a Pakistani national and an Indian national, and thw bombs were taken to Churchgate station on July 11 by taxis.
A chargesheet filed by the ATS in November 2006 named 30 people but four Indian suspects and all 13 Pakistani accused, including key conspirator and LeT commander Azam Cheema, are on the run.
Former Mumbai police commissioner AN Roy, who played a crucial role in the investigation, said he was happy that the court endorsed the chargesheet.
"Investigations were done throughly by the Mumbai Police and the ATS. To start with, it was a blind case. We had no clue. But I am satisfied with the verdict," he said.
The case courted controversy after arrested Indian Mujahideen co-founder Mohamed Sadiq Israr Shaikh told investigators he and fellow IM operatives carried out the blasts but later retracted the confession in court.
IM founder Yasin Bhatkal said in August 2013 the blasts were carried out in retaliation for the 2002 Gujarat riots, leading to allegations that the wrong people had been arrested.
“The case had got a lot of adverse publicity and there were allegations the wrong people were arrested. I hope the judgement will stop these talks,” said special public prosecutor Raja Thakare.