2006 Mumbai train blasts: Sentencing of convicts on September 30

Mumbai, Sep 23 (IANS) A Mumbai Special Court on Wednesday said it would pronounce the quantum on punishment on September 30 on 12 people convicted in the July 11, 2006 serial blasts in suburban trains that killed 189 commuters and left over 800 injured.

Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre, terming all the 12 convicts “merchants of death”, sought the death penalty for eight and life imprisonment for the remaining four at the Special MCOCA Court.

Special MCOCA Judge Y.D. Shinde said he would deliver his order on sentencing on September 30.

On September 11, Special Judge Shinde found guilty 12 of the 13 accused for the suburban train blasts during the peak hours of the rainy evening of July 11, 2006.

Thakre sought death penalty for Kamal A. Ansari (37), medico Tanvir A. Ansari (37), Mohammed Sajid Ansari (34), Sheikh Mohammed Ali Alam Sheikh (40), Mohammed Faisal Sheikh (36), Ehteshan Siddiqui (30), Asif Khan alias Junaid (38), and Naved Hussain Khan (30).

He sought life term for Mohammed Majid Shafi (30), Muzammil Sheikh (27), Soheil Mohammed Sheikh (43), Zamir Ahmed Sheikh (36).

Thakre submitted before the Special Court that these four convicts were found guilty of offences which attract multiple life imprisonments, so they should be sentenced to life till the end of the lives in jail, or not less than 60 years.

Abdul Wahid Sheikh is the lone accused who was acquitted in the case, while another prime accused Azam Chima, alleged to be linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is among the 17 absconders, that include 13 Pakistani nationals.

Arguing for stringent punishment to all the convicts, Thakre said the evening peak hour timings chosen and the targets (packed suburban trains) on the Churchgate-Virar section showed their extreme mentality as it would inflict maximum casualties.

Seeking death for eight convicts, he referred to the debate on capital punishment which has been abolished in around 70 percent countries worldwide, but retained in India, and the Law Commission has also said it could be applied in terror cases or crimes against the state.

The trial continued for eight years in which the prosecution examined 192 witnesses, including policemen, civil servants, medicos, officials of various government departments, commuters, survivors and a person summoned as a court witness, with their deposition running into over 5,500 pages.

Besides claiming 189 lives, the blasts left 817 people injured on the evening of July 11, 2006, from 6.23 p.m. onwards — the return peak hour when the suburban trains are choked with commuters going home.

The seven RDX-laden bombs went off in trains at Matunga Road, Mahim, Bandra, Khar Road, Jogeshwari, Borivali and Mira Road stations spanning Mumbai and Thane districts.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad had claimed that the suspects belong to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), LeT and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The trial started in June 2007, but was stayed in February 2008 after one of the 13 accused, Kamal Ansari challenged the phrase ‘promoting insurgency’ in defining organised crime in the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act as “unconstitutional”.

In April 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed his petition and paved the way for the trial to resume.

Later, in December 2012, the Bombay High Court directed police to grant access to telephone call records which showed that four people accused of allegedly planting the bombs were not in the vicinity of Churchgate station or the blasts sites that evening.

The ATS alleged that some of them were in contact with the LeT in Pakistan and had carried out the blasts.

Police said highly sophisticated explosives ripped through mainly the first class compartments of the seven local trains, all headed in the northern direction.

While two blasts occurred when the crowded trains neared Borivali and Mahim stations, the others took place when they were leaving the stations or while running to their destinations.

The explosions, using around 15-20 kg of RDX, were so powerful that they blew off the double-layered steel roofs and walls of the seven train compartments.

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