During its hearing in the second leg of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) court in Mumbai on Friday convicted Abu Salem, Firoz Khan, Mustafa Dossa, Tahir Merchant and Karimullah Shaikh on charges including criminal conspiracy and murder.
The special court is hearing cases against mafia don Abu Salem and six others.
Tahir Merchant and Firoz Khan have been convicted on charges of conspiracy and murder under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), TADA and Explosives Act, while Mustafa Dossa has been found guilty of conspiracy, murder and terror activities.
Another accused in the case, Abdul Qayyum was acquitted of all charges. The court ordered his release against a personal bond. As for Riaz Siddiqui, though he was convicted, the Tada Court said it believed the prosecution failed to prove charges for conspiracy.
All the accused, however, were acquitted of the charge of waging war against the nation. The court posted the next hearing in the case to June 19, when it would decide the date for arguments over the quantum of sentence for those found guilty.
The blasts that rocked 13 sites in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, had left 257 people dead and 713 injured, besides causing destruction of properties worth Rs 27 crore.
In the first leg of the trial, the Tada court had convicted 100 accused in the case and acquitted 23 people.
What is Abu Salem charged with?
Abu Salem, charged with supplying arms and ammunitions for the blasts from Gujarat to Mumbai, was extradited from Portugal in 2005.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for the 1995 murder of builder Pradeep Jain, and is currently lodged in Taloja Central Jail in Raigad.
Who are the other accused?
Apart from Abu Salem, the other accused are Mustafa Dossa (extradited from the UAE), Mohammed Tahir Merchant alias Tahir Takla, Abdul Qayyum, Karimullah Khan, Riyaz Siddiqui and Feroze Abdul Rashid Khan.
Dossa is facing charges of conspiracy and arranging landing of the explosives, around 3,000 kg of RDX, along with his associates in Raigad.
Merchant arranged for the others involved to travel to Pakistan for training, Qayyum is accused of supplying weapons to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and other charges, Karimullah Khan charged with smuggling the explosives into the country through Shekhadi Port in Raigad while Siddiqui and Feroze Khan are charged with transporting the explosives to the various targeted locations in Mumbai.
What about Sanjay Dutt?
Sanjay Dutt was accused in the case for illegally possessing weapons, AK 56 rifles, 250 bullets and some hand grenades at his residence on January 16, 1993. Two days later on January 18, 1993, Salem and two others went to Dutt’s house and got back two rifles and some rounds.
However, he was let off the terrorism charges but tried and convicted under the Arms Act. He served his full sentence and was released from jail in February 2016.
What happened on March 12, 1993?
On March 12, 1993 the country’s commercial capital witnessed an unprecedented terrorist attack when a series 12 bomb explosions took place one after another in about a span of two hours.
The blasts were said to be in retaliation for the demolition of the Babri Mosque in December 1992 and the subsequent bloody two-phased communal riots of Mumbai in December 1992-January 1993.
This was the first ever terrorist attack in the world where RDX (Research Department Explosive) was used on such a large scale after the Second World War.
The prosecution said that the object of the crime was to commit terrorist acts with the intent to overawe the government of India, to strike terror on the people, alienate section of the people and to harm the communal harmony.
What happened in the previous trial?
The case was first heard by judge Pramod Kode, who had also delivered the judgement in the first leg of the trial and convicted 100 accused and acquitted 23 in 2007.
Though the hearing in the case began in 2007, it was delayed as three petitions were pending with the Supreme Court, one each filed by Dossa and Salem, and another by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The court had dropped certain charges against Salem in 2013 after CBI moved a plea, saying those charges were against the extradition treaty between India and Portugal.
The court, in all, recorded statements of around 750 prosecution witnesses and 50 witnesses. Three accused including Salem had confessed to their crime during investigations carried out by the CBI over the years into the blasts case.
Underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim, along with Tiger Memon and his brother Yakub Memon were alleged as conspirators in the case
It was during the trial in 2013 that the Supreme Court pronounced a judgement, wherein key conspirator Yakub Memon’s death sentence was confirmed, while others were commuted to life imprisonment. The latter was hanged in Nagpur Central Jail on July 30, 2015.