‘Yakub hanging is justice, wish same zeal shown in 1993 riots cases’: Judge who probed Mumbai riots

Justice Srikrishna said, “It is distressing that instead of being looked at as incidents of crimes, the two sets of acts got dealt with disparately depending on the communal inclinations of the state apparatus.”

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Updated: August 1, 2015 11:46 am
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A day after the hanging of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon, Justice B M Srikrishna, who headed the one-man commission that inquired into the riots that preceded the blasts in the city, said “justice according to law has been done”.

But commenting on the treatment of the riots and blasts cases, Justice Srikrishna, in an email interview, said: “It is distressing that instead of being looked at as incidents of crimes, the two sets of acts got dealt with disparately depending on the communal inclinations of the state apparatus.”

The Srikrishna Commission was set up by the Maharashtra government to investigate incidents of widespread rioting from December 6 to 10, 1992 and January 6 to 20, 1993 and damage and loss to the city during that period. One of the terms of reference for the commission was to see if the riots and the blasts were connected. The riots left 900 dead.

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In his inquiry report, Justice Srikrishna concluded that there was one: “One common link between the riots of December 1992 and January 1993 and bomb blasts of 12th March 1993 appears to be that the former appear to have been a causative factor for the latter. There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts.”

On Yakub’s hanging, he said: “I think justice according to law has been done. That should provide a closure to the unnecessary controversies and avoidable whipping up of passions all around.”

He said the main reason for the difference in the treatment of the riots and blasts cases was “state bias”. “If the state is is complicit in the communal riots, police will turn a Nelson’s eye towards the real aggressors and round up the real victims, as happened during Mumbai riots and Delhi riots.

Obviously, prosecutions also will be geared to meet the ends of state. While no one could have objected to the zeal with which the police prosecuted the bomb blast cases, one wishes that the same zeal had been shown in investigation and prosecution of the riot cases. Both are crimes and what is desirable is that the state machinery be agnostic to communal and religious factors on both occasions.”

“As long as the inherent state bias is not removed, there would be no change in the situation,” he said. “The victims of such state complicity in aggression, therefore, looked for succour from outside and that resulted in the bomb explosions.” He termed the Mumbai bomb blasts, as a case of “history repeating itself at enormous cost to human lives.”

In his inquiry report, he had referred specifically to Tiger Memon, Yakub’s brother, as “the key figure” in the serial blasts case, and one of “his trusted accomplices, Javed Dawood Tailor”.

“Apart from these two specific cases, there was a large amorphous body of angry frustrated and desperate Muslims keen to seek revenge for the perceived injustice done to and atrocities perpetrated on them or to others of their community and it is this sense of revenge which spawned the conspiracy of the serial blasts. This body of angry frustrated and desperate Muslims provided the material upon which the anti-national and criminal elements succeeded in building up their conspiracy for the serial bomb blasts,” the report concluded.

Justice Srikrishna says he believes in the death penalty. “I am of the view that capital punishment must remain. When I was faced with confirmation of a death sentence for the first time as a judge, I spent several hours debating the issue in my mind till I came to the conclusion that it should remain. However, in a democracy, if the will of people reflected (theoretically, at least) by law made by Parliament decides to abolish it, so shall be it.”

On the role of prosecutors in trials like these, Justice Srikrishna said: “The role the prosecutor is to impartially place all relevant evidence before the court to judge. Unfortunately, this is not done as impartially as required. Prosecutors tend to go overboard for securing convictions as that gets them greater number of feathers in their caps.”