WHEN senior counsel Deepak Salvi was approached by a former solicitor general in March 2010, he thought handling the 1993 blasts case won’t be a long-term commitment. “The trial for the first set of accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case was over and he told me the CBI wanted someone with experience in the High Court to argue the matter for the seven current accused. I was reluctant but was told that it would take barely six or seven months to complete the trial,” recalled Salvi, 56, who is known among colleagues for keeping a low profile but having very sharp understanding of finer law points.
The 1993 Mumbai serial blasts trial instead took seven years to complete. Salvi was then representing central agencies in the Bombay High Court and handling around 850 cases. With the trial for the first set of accused already completed before the special TADA court by a set of advocates, including special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, Salvi’s challenge lay not in proving the conspiracy but in ensuring that the accused do not evade punishment on technical points.
Salvi said since these seven accused were arrested subsequently when the trial against the first set of accused was at its fag end, the court had ordered their trial to be separated.
“The accused challenged the use of the confessions given by their co-accused in the earlier trial against them,” he said.
The Supreme Court eventually, in two orders, stated that the accused would get the liberty to cross-examine witnesses related to the confessions. “The main challenge was to prove to the court that those confessions can be used against the current set of accused,” said Salvi.
At many points during the trial, Salvi engaged on legal points with the defence advocates or even with questions posed regularly by Special Judge G A Sanap.
“We would have to constantly prepare ourselves for the legal points raised by the defence as well as the court. In all, we ended up referring to over 300 judgments throughout the trial to make our point,” Salvi says. “When I took up the case, I was told that I would have to work with a dead horse (the now-repealed TADA, under which the accused had been charged). One of the defence advocates was kind enough to say that I could make the dead horse gallop,” said Salvi.
On Friday, after the TADA court convicted six of the seven accused, Salvi said he felt that a mission in his life had been accomplished. “I have no regrets. I learnt a lot from this trial,” Salvi, who was the special CBI counsel in the case, told The Indian Express.