Thirteen years after the serial bomb blasts rocked Mumbai, the designated Tada Court will commence dictating its judgement from Thursday.
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) (Prevention) Act Judge PD Kode trying the case will commence delivery of judgement in a court room housed at Arthur Road Jail in South-Central Mumbai. The trial of 1993 serial blast case began on June 19, 1995 and the same was concluded in 2003, after the court examined 686 witnesses, two accused-turned-approvers and recording evidences running into 14,000 pages.
The case involving a total of 123 accused of which 86 are out on bail, including cine star Sanjay Dutt and few members of the Memon family, who had allegedly masterminded the blast, have been directed to remain present in the court on August 10 and not to leave its jurisdiction.
At the instance of Pakistan-based intelligence agency—ISI—the conspiracy of the blast was hatched after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya and communal violance in Mumbai.
The conspiratorial meeting took place in Dubai and was executed in Mumbai and various parts of the state. The meeting was then attended by Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, Tiger Memon and other blast accused who had actively participated for committing this offence. Ironically, these two prime accused—Dawood and Memon—are still absconding. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had earlier issued red-corner notices against them and they have been declared as 'proclaimed offenders'.
However, it was learnt during investigations that the other accused persons were sent to Dubai via Pakistan for receiving training in handling arms and ammunition. The deadly RDX and arms were landed in the coastal region of Maharashtra at Raigad.
In the initial stages, Crime Branch CID, probing the case, had also filed a chargesheet running into 10,000 pages. The probe was later handed over to CBI and on November 19, 1993, after the arrest of the accused person, CBI recorded the confessional statements of all the blast accused.
Incidentally, the same was retracted by all the accused except the two accused-turned-approvers who stuck to their statements and delivered evidence against the accused.
Besides, 37 accused, including extradited gangster Abu Salem and Yakub Memon are in custody. Also, 23 accused in the case had been discharged, including Samajwadi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Abu Asim Azmi, by the TADA court.
Some of the accused died during the trial of the case, while two passed away in police custody, 10 were killed in gang wars and one was gunned down in a police encounter.
The court also examined a defence witness, a retired hand-writing expert, who reportedly delivered evidence about the hand-writing of Yakub Memon, which was later produced in the court as a vital piece of evidence.
It maybe recalled that a series of 13 bomb explosions had rocked Mumbai on March 12, 1993, in which 257 people died, about 700 were injured and property worth several crores was destroyed.
The blasts were masterminded by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim with the help of his lieutenants Tiger Memon and Mohammed Dossa, allegedly at the instance of Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, to avenge demolition of disputed Babri Masjid, the CBI has claimed in the chargesheet.
According to CBI, the perpetrators of the serial blasts intended to shatter the country's economy, as was indicative from the selection of blasts sites namely Bombay Stock Exchange, Air-India building, hotel Sea Rock, hotel Centaur Juhu, hotel Centaur Airport, and in busy areas of Zaveri Bazaar, Katha Bazaar and Century Bazaar.
A petrol pump near the Shiv Sena bhavan and Plaza theatre were also targeted as blasts killed many people.
As part of the conspiracy, hand grenades were hurled at a Hindu colony in Mahim, triggering riots in the city in which several motor vehicles, shops and houses were damaged.
Hand grenades were also hurled at the airport but no damage was caused, while RDX-stuffed scooters that had failed to explode were seized from Naigaon and Dhanji Street.
The explosions occurred between 1:30 pm to 3:40 pm on a black Friday sending shockwaves among the people across the country.
The CBI has said that a well-planned conspiracy was hatched by Dawood, Memon and Dossa in 1992, that resulted in landing of arms, ammunition and RDX at Shekadhi in Raigad district on January 7, 1993 and February 2, 1993.
Another consignment of arms landed at Dighi coast in Raigad district, near Mumbai, on January 9, 1993, and this was handled by Mohammed Dossa.
Dawood, Memon and Dossa are absconding accused in the list of 29. While Dawood was already abroad when the blasts occurred, Memon and Dosa fled a day before.
According to special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, the conspiracy meetings were held at the house of co-accused Babloo and Mubina Baya Bhiwandiwala, adopted sister of Tiger Memon. Another round of meetings were also held at Dubai and in Persian Durbar Hotel at Panvel.
Nikam said there is evidence against Dawood Ibrahim, but defence lawyer Farhana Shah said the only evidence against him was the statement of co accused Dawood Phanse.
In furtherance of conspiracy, Tiger Memon at the instance of Dawood and his absconding brother Anees Ibrahim, summoned his men Dawood Taklya, Abdul Kadar, Aziz Mohamed Shaikh, Ahmed Shah Khan, Yakub Memon, Ayub Memon, Taher Taklya and Mohammed Dossa between December 1992 to January 1993 to chalk out plans to create explosions and strike terror.
Twenty five accused were sent to Pakistan via Dubai for training in arms and ammunition. Their visits were sponsored by local firms in Dubai and trips were arranged in collusion with Pakistani agents as it transpired during investigations that no immigration and emmigration formalities were observed at Islamabad airport, according to chargesheet filed by CBI.
They travelled by Pakistan International Airlines and their passports were collected by Tiger memon and his men. It also transpired during investigations that the accused were indoctrinated by their foreign trainers that Muslims in India had suffered heavily during communal riots of 1992-93 and thus their religious sentiments were exploited to strike terror.
Bulk of finance relating to travel of accused to Pakistan for arms training came from Yakub Memon and Ayub Memon, brothers of Tiger Memon.
Eighteen other accused took part in training programmes in villages Sandheri and Bhorghat in Raigad district. They were trained to handle AK-56 rifle, 9mm pistols, hurling hand grenades and in the use of RDX.
The first witness to step into the box was accused-turned approver Mohammed Khatlab who spilled the beans and disclosed the conspiracy, saying he was lured by accused Farooq Motorwala to attend a meeting in Dubai called by Tiger Memon. He visited Dubai and also went to Pakistan but returned without taking arms training on the pretext of ill-health.
The second witness was also an approver, Mohammed Usman Jan Khan and he said he was involved in every stage of the conspiracy—attending meetings, participating in arms training and bomb making in Pakistan, stuffing RDX in cars and scooters and parking the vehicles in targetted places.
He identified 33 accused in the court as the members of Tiger Memon team who had helped the perpetrators in executing the blasts. Usman Jan Khan also told the court that RDX came in a ship from Pakistan and was transported in another vessel which landed at Shekhadi coast. The approver also named the accused which helped Tiger Memon in landing operations and transporting explosives to other parts of the city.
A day before the blasts RDX was stuffed in boots of cars and scooters in the garrages of Al-Husseini building where Tiger Memon and his family own four flats.
Among the accused were few customs officers including SN Thapa, who were arrested and dismissed from service on the charge of helping Tiger Memon in getting away with explosives despite an intelligence alert in this regard. Others were police officers who had allowed the consignment to pass in vehicles although they took the defence that they contained silver bricks and not RDX.
Actor Sanjay Dutt also found himself in the dock with the allegation that he had accepted AK-56 rifle from Abu Salem, Baba Musa Chavan, Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala.