A special court on Wednesday sentenced Al Umma leader Kovai Basha and 30 others to life imprisonment for perpetrating the serial blasts of February 14, 1998, ahead of BJP leader LK Advani's visit.
The 12 blasts claimed 54 lives. They were targeted at Advani but were also a reprisal against the November 1997 anti-Muslim riots in the city that left 18 community members dead. The riots were triggered by the stabbing of a policeman by Al Umma activists. The group was banned after the blasts and 160 persons were charged in connection with the crime.
Sessions judge K Uthirapathy pronounced the sentences of 35 of the 70 found guilty of criminal conspiracy on August 1.
He sentenced them to life and various other jail terms under several sections of the Indian Penal Code and Explosives Act. A few, like Al Umma general secretary Mohammed Ansari, were given more than one life term. Abdul Ozir, guilty of transporting the explosive devices, was given four life terms and 138 years rigorous imprisonment.
The judge pronounced that all sentences would run concurrently, after adjusting the time already spent in jail. As a result, even those sentenced to more than one life term can hope to get remission after the mandatory 14 years.
The chain of life sentences was broken while sentencing four suicide bombers who were deputed to target Advani but did not trigger their explosives as the leader never reached the spot. They were sentenced to 10 years RI.
The remaining accused will be sentenced on Thursday.
Chief defence counsel P Thirumalairajan faulted the judicial procedure by which sentences were awarded without the accused being served a copy of the judgment. "This is also a fit case for appeal since the police's conspiracy theory is full of holes," he said.