A Special TADA court on Thursday 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 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 also imposed a fine on the five accused totaling Rs 27.09 lakh. Firoz Khan was fined Rs 4.75 lakh, Karimullah Khan Rs 8.88 lakh, Tahir Merchant Rs 4.85 lakh, Abu Salem Rs 8.51 lakh and Riyaz Siddiqui Rs 10,000.
The court had in June convicted six persons, including a 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 at 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 set of trial in the case.
All the seven accused were facing multiple charges which included criminal conspiracy, waging war against the 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 Ibrahim and Dossa, took upon of himself to bring a part of arms and ammunition from Dighi to Mumbai, the court had said.
This was “vital towards the 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 Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa, Karimullah Khan, Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan, Riyaz Siddiqui, Tahir Merchant and Abdul Quayyum was separated from the main case as they were arrested after the first set of the 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 Merchant was amongst the main conspirators.
“The evidence proves the anguish, agitation, and frustration expressed by Tahir due to the 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 conspiracy 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 affected by Dossa brothers in Raigad district, the court had held.
Firoz was present for negotiations with customs officers for a 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 and some of the victims have 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 the Government of Maharashtra,” observed judge G A 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 CBI shall extend all possible assistance to DLSA.
The court held that CBI must pursue the matter in proper perspective before the DLSA, adding the agency shall make all the record available to the legal authority as and when required.
The court said there are still 33 absconding accused and CBI shall take necessary steps to expedite proceedings initiated for the sale of attached property in public auction.
Court also said that CBI shall initiate further proceedings for attachment of the properties of the absconding accused in Mumbai or any part of India.