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Handshakes, namaaz in court

The atmosphere in the high-security court complex in the heart of Coimbatore was in stark contrast to the scene outside, reports GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2007 05:51 IST
GC Shekhar

The atmosphere in the high-security court complex in the heart of Coimbatore was in stark contrast to the scene outside: the roads leading to the court had been sealed off, the nearby shops were shut and lawyers and reporters double-frisked. All this should have indicated tension when special judge K Uthirapathy pronounced his findings in the serial blasts case on Wednesday.

But the court hall, located in what was once a public library, was instead enveloped by an air of informality as the affable judge laid out ground rules on how he planned to deal with the convictions of the 163 people who came to court on Wednesday.

“Bring them in batches of five and I will pronounce my findings one after another,” he said.

Like a schoolteacher announcing marks, he listed the charges against the accused and said if they had been proved. The accused were provided with a paper and pen to note down the findings. The process was so efficient that it was completed by 4 pm.

Most of the accused, barring half-a-dozen, were below 30 proving that impressionable young minds had been roped in for the heinous act. Their familiarity with the judge over the five-year-old trial saw many smiling and wishing him.

Even when they were held guilty, they merely nodded. Mohammed Basith, the man who assembled the bombs, smiled all the way to his place even after being held guilty of all charges that reporters were initially misled into thinking that he had been acquitted.

The accused were housed in a huge barricaded cage 50 feet away from the judge who sat on a raised platform. Against 37 people who were accused of rioting after the blasts, the judge pronounced them all not guilty of conspiracy in one go before giving individual findings against them. “That is for those of you who complained against the tyranny of conspiracy charges under section 120 B,” he said.

At 1 pm, many of the prisoners did their namaaz on mats placed in the rear of the cage even as the court proceeded at the other end. There was almost a suppressed cheer when Mahdani, the 14th accused, was found not guilty on all counts. One person who appeared to have anticipated Mahdani’s acquittal sat in a hotel room in Coimbatore — his wife Soofiya, who declared: “Our prayers have come true.”