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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case: 49 convicted, 28 acquitted by special court

Twenty six bombs had detonated across Ahmedabad in the span of one hour on July 26, 2008, including at the state government-run Civil hospital and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run LG hospital. The bombs had killed 56 persons.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad |
Updated: February 9, 2022 9:06:20 am
Outside the sessions court, Bhadra. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

A special court on Tuesday convicted 49 of the 77 accused in the 2008 serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad that claimed 56 lives and left around 200 injured, and acquitted 28 others, giving them benefit of doubt, even as one accused turned approver.

Special judge AR Patel pronounced the verdict virtually, heard by the undertrials at the respective jails, while only prosecutors remained in the courtroom amid high security on the premises, as all the accused, booked mainly under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), were placed under section 268 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that restricts the movement of undertrials.

The accused were produced before the court via video-conference from various jails across the country — 49 of them from Ahmedabad, 10 from Madhya Pradesh, four from Mumbai’s Taloja jail, two from Delhi, five from Bengaluru, two from Viyyur jail in Kerala, two from Jaipur and two from Bihar. One accused Naved Kadri, who was on extended temporary bail since 2018 after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, was on the court premises.

As many as 22 bombs went off in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, at various spots, including the state government-run civil hospital, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run LG Hospital, on buses, parked bicycles, in cars and other places, killing 56 persons and leaving around 200 injured. Of the 24 bombs, one each at Kalol and Naroda, did not go off.

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The explosions, allegedly carried out by the Indian Mujahideen, believed to be a regrouping of the banned organisation SIMI, used bombs combining ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO). Fourteen of the accused in the serial blasts case were booked for attempting to break out of Sabarmati Central Jail where they were lodged, in 2013, of which three got acquitted in the serial blast case.

The trial culminated based on a total of 35 cases registered — 20 at Ahmedabad and 15 in Surat, where similar bombs that did not go off were found after the Ahmedabad bombings.

Of the total 78 accused on trial, one accused — Ayaz Saiyed — who turned approver in the case, had allegedly planted bombs in bicycles and AMTS bus in Naroda area of Ahmedabad city with the bus blowing up near Sarkhej.

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Saiyed, arrested on September 4, 2008, was declared “innocent” by the court in several charges under IPC sections for murder (302), conspiracy (120(B), attempt to murder (307), promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (153A), causing grievous hurt (326), as well as offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act, Damage to Public Property Act, Information and Technology Act, and Arms Act.

The 49 convicted were found guilty of murder (IPC section 302), attempt to murder (IPC section 307), causing grievious hurt (IPC section 326), mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees (IPC section 427), causing mischief by fire or explosive substance (IPC section 435, 436), forgery and cheating (IPC section 465, 468, 471), abetment (109), criminal conspiracy (120B), waging war against state (121A), sedition (124A), causing disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities(153A (1)(a)), as well as for offences under UAPA sections 10, 13, 16 (1) (a) (b), 18, 20, 23, 38 and 39; under Explosive substance Act sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 and under Damage to Public Property Act sections 3(1) (2) and section 4.

One of the convicted, Mohammad Usman Agarbattiwala from Vadodara was found guilty under Arms Act sections 25 (1)(B)(a) as well.

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Agarbattiwala, along with other convicted, have, however, been found “not guilty” for charges under IPC of harbouring offenders (section 212) and of giving false evidence (IPC section 201), as well as for charges under UAPA sections 19 and 40, and for offences of hacking and tampering with computer source documents under IT Act (sections 65 and 66).

The special court acquitted 28 accused and ordered for their release from judicial custody if they are not wanted in any other case, upon payment of Rs 25,000 as bail bond. Among them is Naved Kadri and 16 others acquitted on the ground of benefit of doubt for “insufficient evidence”, the operative part of the court’s order states.

Twelve other acquitted were given the benefit of doubt as no other evidence apart from “statements by investigating officials” were presented before the court, the order records. Of the 28 acquitted, 25 are from outside Gujarat — four from MP, seven from Karnataka, four from Hyderabad, three from Maharashtra, two from Kerala, and two from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

The sentencing for the convicted, is expected to be pronounced on Wednesday, according to public prosecutor Amit Patel. “Section 10, 13 and 16 of the UAPA Act and section 16 is in relation to terrorist act, which the 49 have been found guilty of, along with murder and conspiracy. The convicts can attract a maximum punishment of death or imprisonment for life under IPC section 302 as well as under UAPA. In this case, and the prosecution will seek capital punishment for some of them,” he added.

Public prosecutor Sudhir Brahmbhatt said that while the detailed order would state what evidences were taken into account by the court, the fact that “98 per cent of the witnesses supported the prosecution’s case, including the approver’s statements”, must be the most clinching evidence.

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The prosecution examined 1,163 witnesses over the course of the trial and submitted approximately 6,000 documentary proof. As many as 547 chargesheets were filed in the trial.

Some of the accused also stood accused of serial bomb blasts in Jaipur, Bhopal, Indore, Belgaum, Alipore, 24 Paraganas, South Kolkata, Ujjain, greater Bombay, Mangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

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A total of nine judges presided over the trial at different times, starting with Bela Trivedi in whose court charges were framed on February 15, 2010. Justice Trivedi is now a Supreme Court judge.

Special judge AR Patel who delivered the verdict had taken over the trial from June 14, 2017, prosecutor Patel said.

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IM planned the blasts as a revenge for the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in which over a thousand persons, most of them from the Muslim community, had died, as per the investigators.

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First published on: 08-02-2022 at 01:02:45 pm

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