The verdict given by TADA Judge P.D. Kode on the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts should be etched in gold. In all 100 people have been convicted on various counts ranging from terrorism to waging war against the country to illegal possession of weapons of mass destruction. Over 257 innocent lives were lost in the blasts in Mumbai.
The Special TADA Court had awarded the death sentence to Yakub Memon, the brother of prime accused Tiger Memon, in connection with the 1993 Mumbai blast case earlier in July. The other two Memon brothers, Essa, Yusuf, and Tiger Memon'ssister-in-law Rubina were given life sentences and all had been convicted of abetment and conspiracy in the serial blasts. Interestingly, in this case Tiger Memon has been declared absconding, while his father Abdul Razzak Memon passed away during the trial. After the trial Kode gave death sentences to 12 of the convicts. But along with Sanjay Dutt, Yusuf Nullwala was given a five-year imprisonment term while Kersi Adajenia was given two years of imprisonment. Russi Mulla, on the other hand, was granted probation. They had been held guilty of a lesser offence under the Arms Act, and not under TADA.
They had all sought their release on probation on grounds of good conduct. According to the Probation of Offenders Act, a person convicted of any offence other than the one punishable with death or life imprisonment, can be released on probation instead of serving the sentence in prison. In all, 20 including the three Memon family members have been given life sentences. Ezas Pathan was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. But he died on June 15 after prolonged illness. Eleven of the accused were given seven to eight years of rigorous imprisonment. Amongst the others, 16 were awarded rigorous imprisonment for 10 to 14 years. Two women? Zaibunnisa Quazi and Mubina Bhiwandiwala?were also sentenced to five years in jail. Five others have been awarded three years sentence for providing vehicles and aiding transportation of arms. But Sanjay Dutt'sinvolvement generated all the hype and controversies. Sanjay Dutt was booked for possessing an AK-56 rifle which came in a consignment of arms and explosives meant for the Mumbai serial blasts. This happened almost two months before the blasts took place and Sanjay Dutt should have informed the police if he was just a mute bystander. Kode had awarded sentences to two convicts who had supplied arms to Sanjay Dutt. On June 1, Samir Hingora, the man who supplied the AK-56 rifle to Sanjay Dutt, was awarded nine years? rigorous imprisonment. Dhakla, who removed the rifle from Dutt'shouse, was awarded 10 years imprisonment.
This case also gained significance because it was the first terrorist attack on Mumbai city. But ever since the police found the involvement of film-star Sanjay Dutt the investigations and the trial proceedings have been in public limelight. The on-going endless debates and arguments on the legalities had been closely watched even by the international community and foreign media. And hence, Kode's judgement will be commended for its no-nonsense verdict.
Kode'sverdict only helped to prove that India is not a soft state. The media and its kangaroo court had absolved Sanjay Dutt of all his crimes but the political pressure on the case has been unbelievable. And nowhere in the reports there was even a passing reference to the fact that Sanjay Dutt is the brother of Congress MP Priya Dutt. Nor was there any mention of criminalisation of politics. Just after the court sentenced Sanjay Dutt to a six-year term in jail Union Information & Broadcasting Minister P.R. Dasmunsi expressed deep shock and surprise at the judgement.
He felt that Sanjay Dutt had suffered enough for unintentional faults. It was almost as if Sanjay Dutt had only been caught for traffic violation. The TADA Judge has been cut and dry while sentencing Sanjay Dutt. ?If you don'trespect the law, don'texpect a pardon.? Merely having guns showed scant respect for law, he added. The Judge also rejected Dutt'sapplication for benefit under the Probation of Offenders Act (POA) while stating that Sanjay Dutt is not a first-time offender. Sanjay had bought a pistol from one Quyum. According to Kode, Dutt'sacts were imminently dangerous and showed a high element of criminality.
During the course of the trial film actor of yesteryears Dilip Kumar had filed an affidavit in the court along with former Sheriff of Mumbai Nana Chudasama giving a character certificate to Sanjay Dutt. Kode was almost contemptuous of the affidavit while saying that the affidavits are of no use if there is material evidence of criminal act. Even before the dust could settle reports of political pressure bearing upon the case came to light. It is not a mere coincidence that Congress MP Priya Dutt is the sister of Sanjay. Former Police Commissioner M.N. Singh in an interview to a leading daily talked about how Sunil Dutt had approached him to refer the trial of his son Sanjay to a regular court and not a TADA court. But Singh made it clear that it would be inconsistent with the on-going judicial process to refer Sanjay to a regular court as over 100 accused in the case were booked under Arms Act along with Sanjay. But the most shocking revelation has come from a morning tabloid in Mumbai which told a story of how the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had tried to influence the course of the trial by sending the then CBI director K. Vijaya Rama Rao to the then TADA Judge J.N. Patel. Rao had sought to remove Sanjay Dutt from the TADA charges. Sunil Dutt had even met Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, which was widely reported as a turning point in political equations in the state. Hence, we should raise a toast to Kode'saudacious judgement on the longest trial in the world on a terrorist attack.