Some wounds never heal. They remain – festering in our souls – constant reminders of the worst attacks on our soil. The serial bomb blasts that tore Bombay (Mumbai) city on 12 March, 1993, is one such wound. Planned and executed by Mumbai-based Mafia don Dawood Ibrahim and his crime syndicate D Company (along with Tiger Memon and Yakub Memon), the blasts killed some 257 people and injured 713 others. Bombay is the financial capital of the country, the spirit of Indian diversity and enterprise – an attack on the city was the worst possible crime that could have been wrought.
The wheels of justice are slow but they turn and inevitably deliver a fair verdict. Or at least that is what we would like to believe. Nearly 24 years after the blasts a special TADA court found six of the main accused guilty of criminal conspiracy, of transporting weapons, and of murder. The six accused convicted by the court are Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa, Feroz Khan, Taher Merchant, Riyaz Siddiqui, and Karimulla Khan. The sentencing of the convicts will be decided by the court during the next hearing to be held on 19 June, 2017.
Salem, an infamous leader of organized crime, was extradited from Portugal in November 2005 after much negotiation. His confessions further led to the arrest of Riyaz Siddiqui and Abdul Qayyum Shaikh
Out of the six criminals convicted by the special court constituted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, only five face the death penalty. Siddiqui is likely to be awarded a life sentence. This is because Siddiqui has not been not found guilty of criminal conspiracy by the court. The other accused Abdul Qayyum Shaikh, an arms and ammunitions supplier has been acquitted of all charges.
This is the second round of trial held in connection with the 1993 blasts that rocked Mumbai city. The main trial was held in 2007 – about 14 years after the blasts. More than 100 people were found guilty and at the time eleven of the convicts had been awarded the death sentence, the remaining received varying terms in prison and were also fined. The reason this second edition of the trial was delayed is that the seven accused who faced judgment on Friday were nabbed by the police between 2003 and 2010 and by the time they were all arrested a major portion of the previous trial and a number of its hearings had already been held. There are no other accused in police custody currently and this looks like the final TADA trial to bring the blast conspirators and executors to justice. That is unless any of the 33 absconding accused (including masterminds Dawood Ibrahim, Anees Ibrahim, Mohammad Dossa, and Tiger Memon) are arrested.
This current case has been sub judice since special judge GA Sanap took over trial proceedings in the year 2011. Both the prosecution and defence took turns to appeal to the Supreme Court of India over legalities and technicalities. Proceedings were finally completed in March 2017 and the judgment was delivered on Friday. The people of India now keenly await news of the sentences to be awarded to the culprits on Monday. It is also possible that Abu Salem, one of the main accused may evade the death penalty since his extradition treaty with Potugal demands that he not be sentenced to death or held in prison for over 25 years.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) claims that the serial blasts in Mumbai were planned in revenge for the demolition of the Babri Masjid (in December 1992) and as a result of the communal riots that followed the incident. The blasts, however, claimed the lives of both Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai.