CLAIMING THAT he was not the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, Taher Merchant on Wednesday countered the CBI’s arguments seeking the convict’s death penalty. Merchant, through advocate Sudeep Pasbola, submitted that his role should not be compared to that of Yakub Memon, the sole convict from the first set of accused to get death penalty. “I did not have control over the blast conspiracy. It was at the say of Tiger and Ayub Memon that I had sheltered the accused, I had no post of authority,” Pasbola said on behalf of Merchant.
On June 16, the special Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court convicted Merchant calling him a “main conspirator” who, in the initial part of the conspiracy, worked with “the brain” behind the blasts, Tiger Memon. Special Judge G A Sanap had also observed that Merchant had arranged for green channel entry of several co-accused to Pakistan for arms training before the blast on March 12, 1993. “I did not participate in any meeting where hatching of the conspiracy of the blasts took place. The conspiracy took place much later in time. I am not instrumental in causing the blasts and was performing chores for Tiger by picking up his associates at the airport,” Pasbola submitted.
He further said that while the CBI had claimed that Merchant should be given maximum punishment, also since he was absconding till 2010, “abscondance” is not aggravating circumstance. “Self-preservation is a basic human instinct and cannot be considered evidence against him for maximum punishment. The prosecution also cannot claim that since I did not give a confession, I did not show repentance,” he argued.
The court will continue to hear arguments on behalf of Merchant on Thursday. The special court has issued notices to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, and the investigating officer of one of the cases in which Abu Salem has been named as an accused. Salem had filed an application on July 5 where he submitted that Delhi Police had sought his custody in a criminal case in 1998. Salem has submitted that the case is not part of the list of cases as per the Extradition Treaty with Portugal and hence, the Delhi Police seeking his custody in the case was “illegal”.
“The court had sought a reply from the Commissioner of Police and the investigating officer but it has not been received so far. Once the judgment in this case is over, they might seek his custody without this process being completed,” Pasbola submitted before the court on behalf of Salem. The court then issued notices against the two to respond.