1993 serial blasts: Special TADA court awards death sentence to 2, life sentence to Abu Salem

By: | Updated: September 8, 2017 11:46 AM

A Special TADA court on September 7th awarded death sentence to Tahir Merchant and Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case but gangster Abu Salem escaped the noose and was handed down life imprisonment due to a provision in the Extradition Act.

abu salem, abu salem news, abu salem latest news, 1993 serial blast, 1993 serial blast case, abu salem life sentenceAbu Salem (Express Photo)

A Special TADA court on September 7th awarded death sentence to Tahir Merchant and Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case but gangster Abu Salem escaped the noose and was handed down life imprisonment due to a provision in the Extradition Act.

Besides Salem, the court sentenced Karimullah Khan to life imprisonment, while awarding 10 years in jail to the fifth convict, Riyaz Siddiqui. The court said it would be necessary to make a mention of the worldwide scenario and menace of terrorism. It was pertinent to note that a case related to terrorism could not be treated at par with other offences.

“Offences and offenders of terrorism need to be dealt with sternly. Further generations need to be saved from the menace of terrorism,” judge G A Sanap observed. A lenient view in such cases can weaken the fight and collective efforts to combat terrorism, the court added.

The court also imposed a fine on the five accused totalling Rs 27.09 lakh. Firoz was fined Rs 4.75 lakh, Karimullah Rs 8.88 lakh, Tahir Rs 4.85 lakh, Salem Rs 8.51 lakh and Siddiqui Rs 10,000. The court had in June convicted six persons, including prime accused Mustafa Dossa and Salem, 24 years after the blasts left 257 people dead.

It, however, let off accused Abdul Quayyum for want of evidence.

Salem, a notorious gangster considered close to fugitive mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, escaped death sentence as the Extradition Act bars India from seeking capital punishment for an accused extradited from a country where the practice is not in force.

Before Salem’s extradition in 2004 following his arrest in 2002 in Portugal, India had assured Lisbon that he would not be awarded capital punishment, if convicted in the case.

This was the second stage of trial in the case. All the seven accused were facing multiple charges, including criminal conspiracy, waging war against Government of India and murder.

The court, in its June 16 ruling convicting six accused, held that the prosecution had proved that Salem was one of the main conspirators, and he delivered three AK-56 rifles and ammunition and hand grenades to actor Sanjay Dutt (convicted under Arms Act in the earlier phase of the trial).

Salem, who was close to absconding accused Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anees and Dossa, took it upon himself to bring a part of arms and ammunition from Dighi to Mumbai, the court had said.

This was “vital towards achievement of the conspiracy so that the weapons could be used to terrorise and torment innocent citizens of India,” the court had said.

The trial of Salem, Dossa, Karimullah, Firoz, Siddiqui, Merchant and Quayyum was separated from the main case as they were arrested after the first set of trial had already started. Dossa died of cardiac arrest at J J Hospital in Mumbai, shortly after being convicted on June 28.

The court had held that Tahir was among the main conspirators.

“The evidence proves the anguish, agitation and frustration expressed by Tahir due to situation prevailing in Bombay during the period of riots in January 1993,” it had noted. He worked with absconding conspirator Tiger Memon, participated in several meetings in Dubai. Tahir made travel arrangements, financed the stay and travel of several co- accused and facilitated their training in Pakistan, the court noted.

“The role of Tahir in conspiracy is prominent. He is one of the initiators of the conspiracy,” the court said in its ruling on June 16.

The court had rejected Firoz’s defence that he was not Firoz Khan but ‘Hamza’. The prosecution proved that he was a “prominent and trusted” member of the Dossa gang, and participated in all the landings of weapons effected by Dossa brothers in Raigad district, the court had held.

Firoz was present for negotiations with customs officers for smooth landing of arms and ammunition. He, with “vengeful perseverance in his sinew with a view to carry the blueprint of the plan into reality spearheaded the pre-landing arrangements,” said the verdict of June 16. The prosecution proved that he was one of the main conspirators, the court had held.

On victims’ compensation, the court said that 257 died and 718 suffered grievous injuries while some had become disabled.

“The victims in the Bombay blasts case, deceased and injured/disabled are entitled to get compensation as per the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the victim compensation scheme of Government of Maharashtra,” observed Sanap. The court said as per its record the prosecution has submitted a list of 232 persons who died and 638 who were injured and disabled in the blasts.

“In view of the finding on the point of entitlement of the victims of the blast for compensation this court is satisfied that the compensation which could be paid out of the fine amount would be very meagre and inadequate for the rehabilitation of the victims,” the court said.

The court also recommended District Legal Service Authority (DLSA) to decide and award compensation to the victims. It said the CBI should extend all possible assistance to DLSA.

The court said there are still 33 absconding accused and the CBI should take necessary steps to expedite proceedings initiated for the sale of attached property in public auction.

The court also said that the CBI shall initiate further proceedings for attachment of properties of the absconding accused in Mumbai or any part of India.

On the role of Tahir, the court observed that he was absconding and by remaining in Dubai he had deprived the investigating agency necessary assistance for investigating the case.

Commenting on Firoz, the court said he came from a well- educated family and his father was an officer in the Indian Navy.

“It is necessary to mention that RDX cannot be used as a powder to kill mosquitoes and flies and it cannot be assumed that AK 56 rifles were being distributed in schools in Bombay as toys. The accused had knowledge about the offence,” he said.

It is necessary to note that the conspirators and the perpetrators of the crime rejoiced at its success and when it came to face the consequences they were getting justice. The court observed that the punishment must be proportionate to the depravity and gravity of crime. The judgement runs into around 2,100 pages. The court was sitting till 11 pm to hand over copies of the judgment to the accused.

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