Judge Pramod Dattaram Kode appeared relieved after handing down his last sentence on Tuesday in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case, after a marathon 13-year trial. But the judge of the special court set up to hear the case cannot consider the trial a closed chapter in his life – just as yet.
Almost at once, Kode must begin the onerous task of writing out his “reasoned” judgements, explaining in detail the arguments backing his decisions on the 123 accused – 100 of whom he eventually convicted. The final order is expected to run into several thousand pages and is likely to be ready in about two months, according to the court’s registrar, V.S. Gavas.
The court will then give convicts copies of these final written judgements, which they need to appeal in the Supreme Court against the special court’s decisions. Convicts can then approach the country’s top court to seek acquittals or reductions in their sentences, and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is prosecuting the case, can appeal to the court to set aside acquittals or enhance punishment in cases.
Besides working on the final order, Kode will also have to decide on some miscellaneous applications on property matters and on petitions about attaching convicts’ assets. Slightly less than 100 such matters are still pending before the court, and it will probably take about a year to decide on them, according to the court registrar.
This trial has been life-changing for Kode. He was appointed judge of the special court trying the bomb blasts case in 1995, and, until a month ago, when he dislocated his shoulder and was forced to stay at home, he has not taken leave for a single day. This workaholic judge has pored over 40,000 pages of text in the form of affidavits, chargesheets and evidence, and examined 686 witnesses.
It’s no wonder that he is now thinking of writing a book on the marathon trial when he retires in three years. He told HT he wanted to document “one of India’s most historic trials.” Besides being in a prime position to examine the legal aspects of the case, Kode has also had a ringside view of human behaviour under stress and duress. Having interacted with the accused during the course of the trial, he has come to know their personal histories and emotional make-ups.
But it hasn’t been easy on his personal life, and his family – his wife and two daughters. He has the top level of security, ‘Z-plus’ and has avoided attending public functions during his tenure as judge of the special court. He is guarded by armed security men round the clock, and drives in a bullet-proof car that is always shadowed by an escort vehicle.
Kode began his career as a criminal lawyer in 1977 after graduating from the Government Law College in Mumbai. He became public prosecutor in 1987, and four years later, a judge at the civil and sessions court. In 1993, he was appointed the judge of the special court set up to look into cases registered under the TADA Act. Two years later, he took over the bomb blasts trial.