A Special POTA Court on Tuesday held 10 people guilty in connection with the triple bomb blasts in Mumbai between December 2002 and March 2003 that killed at least 12 people and injured 139 others.
Acquitting three other accused, POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Special Judge P.R. Deshmukh posted the pronouncement of the quantum of sentence for the convicts to Wednesday.
Those convicted include a former general secretary of the banned outfit, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The first blast occurred near McDonald’s eatery in Mumbai Central Terminus on December 6, 2002, another in a Vile Parle market on January 27, 2003, and the third in a crowded ladies first class compartment of a suburban train near Mulund on March 13, 2003.
The prosecution said the accused, mostly members of SIMI, wanted to avenge the razing of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 and the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002.
Convicted former SIMI general secretary Saquib Nachan was described by police as the “mastermind” of the triple blasts.
Nine others found guilty are Ateef Nasir Mulla, Hasib Zubeir Mulla, Gulam Khotal, Mohammed Kamil, Farhan Khot, Noor M. Malik, Dr. Wahid Ansari, Muzammil Ansari and Anwar Ali Khan.
Haroon Lohar, Nadeem Paloba and Adnan Mulla were acquitted by the court for lack of sufficient evidence against them.
The prosecution contended that Nachan, along with Pakistani Faisal Khan – linked to terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba – carried out the blasts along with 23 other accused.
Of the total 25 accused listed by police, a majority were nabbed in 2003, five died during the trial and five are still absconding.
Nachan was accused of arranging the required manpower, arms and ammunition while co-accused, a medico Wahid Ansari and some other absconders, were charged with manufacturing the bombs.
Muzammil Ansari and another absconder-accused were charged with executing the terror plot by planting the bombs.
The three cases – though far between and in different parts of Mumbai – were clubbed together by the court as a common conspiracy linked them.
All the accused were charged with murder, attempt to murder, causing grievous hurt, waging war against the nation, criminal conspiracy besides several charges under the Indian Penal Code, Railways Act, Arms Act, Explosive Substances Act and POTA – some of which attract the maximum death penalty.
Meanwhile, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUeM) Maharashtra, which provided legal aid to the accused, said it would challenge the judgment in the Bombay High Court.
A JUeM spokesperson also urged the government to set up fast-track courts to dispose off terror-related cases within two years so that the accused who are finally acquitted do not spend prolonged periods in jail.