TWENTY-FOUR years after serial bomb blasts ripped through iconic Mumbai locations, a special court has announced the death penalty for two men convicted on charges of criminal conspiracy and murder. In June this year, the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court had convicted six men for the blasts that killed 257 people and injured 713.
On Thursday, the TADA court sentenced Taher Merchant and Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan to death, while sentencing Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan to life imprisonment.
Riyaz Siddiqui, who had been found not guilty of conspiracy, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Salem and Karimullah were sentenced to concurrent life sentences on two separate counts each.
The CBI had sought death for Feroz, Merchant and Karimullah while seeking life for Salem and Siddiqui. One more convict, Mustafa Dossa, suffered a fatal cardiac arrest in June, a fortnight after the conviction. The case against him was subsequently abated.
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On March 12, 1993, the financial capital witnessed its first serial bomb explosions, with 12 devices exploding between 1.30 pm and 3.40 pm. The first bomb went off at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The other spots included Katha Bazaar, Lucky Petrol Pump near Sena Bhavan in Dadar, opposite the passport office near Century Bazaar in Worli, fishermen’s colony in Mahim, the basement of the Air India building in Nariman Point, Zaveri Bazaar, Hotel Sea Rock in Bandra, Plaza Cinema in Dadar and Centaur Hotel in Juhu.
The CBI claimed that the blasts were planned and executed as retaliation to the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya in December 1992 and the subsequent communal violence in Mumbai.
Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan
Among the six convicted on June 16, the special TADA court had said that the evidence by the CBI was enough to convict Feroz. During the trial, Feroz had claimed that he was actually a man named Hamza Khan and that his arrest was a case of mistaken identity. “Feroz is not Hamza as claimed by him. He is the same Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, who was declared a proclaimed offender in this case in 1993,” the court said. The court observed that Feroz was ‘a prominent member’ of the Dossa gang and was ‘actively involved’ in smuggling arms and ammunition to India.
The court also convicted Taher Merchant, calling him a ‘main conspirator’ who in the initial part of the conspiracy worked with ‘the brain’ behind the blasts, Tiger Memon. The court further said he had been part of several conspiratorial meetings held in Dubai and had also arranged green channel entry of several co-accused to Pakistan for training of arms and ammunition.
Against Abu Salem, the court had said that his ‘close proximity’ to main conspirators, Anees Ibrahim and Mustafa Dossa, had led to him taking it upon himself to transport and conceal arms and ammunition in various places. The court had found Salem guilty of providing arms to actor Sanjay Dutt.
The court said he had the knowledge of the conspiracy since he was part of the arms landing as well as one conspiracy meeting where Memon had discussed taking revenge of the riots.
About Siddiqui, who was charged with providing a vehicle to Salem for transporting the vehicles, the court observed that the prosecution had ‘failed to prove the charge of conspiracy’ against him but he was convicted under section 3 (3) of the TADA(P) Act.