February 2, 2016 12:41:51 am
A court that convicted two men for plotting to set fire to several locations in Mumbai observed that it was association of one of them with an ‘uncle’ in Pakistan that led to the crime, but his identity could not be ascertained.
Abdul Latif Shaikh (36) and Riyaz Ali Shaikh (30), brothers-in-law, were sentenced to 12 years and 10 years respectively by sessions judge Sanjay V Patil last week for plotting to set fire to ONGC building in Bandra, Mangaldas Market in South Mumbai, Thakkar Mall in Borivali and a colony behind the mall consisting predominantly Gujarati-speaking families, in 2010.
The Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad (ATS) arrested the men in March 2010 after intercepting calls between Abdul and his uncle. Transcripts of calls form part of the observations in Judge Patil’s 54-page order.
The judge observed that the duo used code language. Their conversations was played out in open court. A prosecution witness who intercepted the calls stated he “did not try to ascertain identity” of the other person. Abdul’s voice had been identified by three witnesses. The judge observed, “the identity of another person cannot be easily ascertained as it was a call from Pakistan.”
Another prosecution witness, the nodal officer of the telecommunications company that provided call detail records of Abdul’s phone, told the court that difference between a monitored call and that reflected in the company’s system cannot be more than one second. Defence lawyer Taraq Sayyed had pointed out that the difference in some calls was as much as 15 seconds. When quizzed about it, the ATS replied, “the difference may be due to difference of time in the police officer’s watch and the watch of service provider company. The judge, however, did not consider the difference to be a serious lacuna.
Portions of the seven conversations between Abdul and his uncle reproduced in the judgement show that the duo spoke about recruiting more men and finalising attacks on ONGC building, Mangaldas Market and Thakkar Mall. The one conversation between Abdul and Riyaz that is part of the judgement has the duo speaking about them needing between “25 and 35 liters of water” and that they would disappear thereafter.
Noting that water in the conversation was code for petrol, the judge observed, “in conspiracy, privacy and secrecy is always observed and therefore, there is use of code words.”
The judge observed that it was essential to read between the lines.
The defence argues that interception of phone calls was an invasion of privacy. The judge observed that the government had authorised intercepting suspect mobile phones in 2010, in the aftermath of the terror attack at Pune’s German Bakery.
Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian examined 28 witnesses. The defence did not line up a single one.
The recovery of ten liters of petrol buried in garbage in Bandra East was held to be proven by the prosecution, as the judge was satisfied that it was an inflammable substance. The defence argued that the petrol had been recovered from a place accessible to the public.
The judge observed, “As per the report of CA (chemical analyser) there is clear mention regarding the nature of liquid and it was found to be petrol. Petrol by itself is inflammable and exact purity of said petrol would not be relevant in the present case.”
The judgement also made note of testimony of three friends of Abdul, whom he attempted to recruit. Each refused but stayed silent as they were frightened. Each had been promised a “handsome amount” by Abdul’s uncle, a wanted accused in the “92-93 Bombay Blast,” the judgement states.
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