Almost eight years after the serial train blasts in Mumbai on July 11, 2006, which claimed 188 lives and left over 800 injured, the prosecution claims to have identified a “command post” from where calls were made and received by the accused. Relying on the Call Data Records (CDRs) submitted to the court, the prosecution claims that as many as 19 calls were made and received at a public telephone booth outside Fauziya Nursing Home on Shuklaji Street, near Nagpada, South Mumbai, during February-July 2006.
According to the prosecution, one of the accused, Dr Tanvir Ansari, the “commander” of the operation, was stationed at the PCO and communicated with at least four other accused — Asif Bashir Khan, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Zameer Shaikh and Mohammad Sajid Ansari. The five are among the 13 who have been arrested so far in the case.
The prosecution, however, has no proof to show that Dr Ansari was at the PCO, and has just relied on the fact that he started his medical practice at Fauziya Nursing Home. The PCO, which was then reportedly situated right outside the nursing home, is no longer there.
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According to the CDRs:
Sajid received calls on July 6, July 10 and July 11 from the PCO. He received seven other calls between February and June, and made one call from there on July 12.
Siddiqui received two calls on April 30, one on May 10 and two on May 12 from the PCO.
Shaikh made one call from his cellphone to the PCO on February 21.
Asif received a call on July 10 and another on July 12 from the PCO.
In his final arguments before Special MCOCA Judge Y D Shinde earlier this month, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare claimed that Dr Ansari, who was working with M H Saboo Siddik Hospital at Dongri at the time of the blasts, would sneak out of the hospital and go to this PCO outside Fauziya Nursing Home to make and receive calls. The two hospitals are at least three kilometres apart.
The defence lawyers on Thursday rubbished the prosecution’s submission made earlier this month. “If the CDR was so crucial, why did they not bring it before the court record. We had to move the high court to get access to these CDRs,” said defence lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan. He claimed that Dr Ansari was working at the M H Saboo Siddik Hospital on all the days when the calls were reportedly made and received.
“His entry on the muster roll, biometric attendence and his senior colleagues’ statements show he was at work,” said Khan. On the other accused, he said the calls to Siddiqui were made by his printing press clients who lived around the area; Sajid’s relatives lived near Fauziya Nursing Home and would use the PCO to make and receive calls; Shaikh, a taxi driver, received calls from his passengers who used the PCO as they lived around Nagpada; and Asif’s phone was used a few times by his colleague, who must have made and received those calls.
The prosecution has maintained that the accused did not use their mobile phones to ensure that they did not get caught. Dr Ansari’s mobile network provider, MTNL, did not submit the CDR to the court, claiming that it had been erased.
According to the prosecution, the bombs were assembled by one Mohammad Ali in his house in Govandi three days before the blasts. The chargesheet claims Dr Ansari, Siddiqui and Sajid were with Mohammad Ali at his house for three days. But the CDRs show that Siddiqui was at Mira Road where he lived, while Sajid was also at Mira Road (his house) and Jogeshwari (his workplace).
Meanwhile, a senior ATS official said, “The CDRs were vetted by the ATS. However, due to its enormous nature, it was left half-studied. The defence’s move has helped us tie up the loose ends. We would not have found out about these calls had the defence not insisted that the network service provider must make it available.”