A special court today convicted 10 out of the 13 accused in connection with the multiple blasts that rocked the city between December 2002 and March 2003 killing 13 people.
Special Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) judge PR Deshmukh will start hearing the arguments on the sentencing from tomorrow.
Those convicted are - key accused Saquib Nachan, Ateef Mulla, Hasib Mulla, Ghulam Kotal, Mohammed Kamil, Noor Malik, Anwar Ali Khan, Farhaan Khot, Wahid Ansari and Muzammil Ansari.
In a combined charge sheet filed against 15 accused in the Mulund, Vile Parle and Mumbai Central blast cases, police had charged them with offences under POTA, the Explosive Substances Act and preparation to wage war against the nation and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
Two accused died during the trial and cases against them were abated. Six others are still wanted in the case.
The Mulund train blasts occurred on March 13, 2003 killing 12 persons and injuring 71. Earlier, on December 6, 2002 several persons were injured in the blast at McDonald’s at Mumbai Central station, while a person died when a bomb attached to a cycle exploded in a market area in Vile Parle (East) on January 27, 2003.
Speaking to reporters on how the case was cracked, Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian said that police came to know that a group was engaged in some suspicious activity in Padga in suburban Thane district. Some accused collected explosives, some collected AK-56s and they wanted to target prominent leaders belonging to right wing groups.
“They also used to practice with those weapons on the hills at Padga”, Salian added.
Salian said police had recovered many shells from the hills and forensic tests confirmed that the shells were from the seized weapons.
“We had seized three weapons from Nachan, Ateef and Haseeb,” Salian said, adding that it was one of the accused who had taken the police to the hills during the investigation.
She also said that the motive behind the blast was to terrorise people.
“One accused Tahir Ansari, who is untraceable, is a bomb expert and was active in planting crude bombs in trains in different parts of the country in 1993,” Salian said.
The bombs, she added, were assembled at the clinic of Wahid while the forensic reports confirmed that the traces from the clinic matched with the traces in explosion site.
She said Muzammil, the key planter of the bombs who also has an engineering degree, used to be absent from his work place in Andheri whenever the blast took place.
Also Muzammil’s voice was very peculiar as he had some throat ailment. Many witnesses identified Muzammil because of his voice. While keeping the explosive-laden bag in the Mulund train, another bag of a co-passenger fell down and he had some altercation.
While planting the bomb in Vile-Parle market, one of the office colleagues met him there. Even there too he had argument with some of the people while parking the bicycle laden with explosives.
Another accused Khot took police to a well in Padga where they found some arms and 250 iron bomb cases out of which two were half-made. Police also found Sulphuric acid and ammonium nitrate there.
Initially, when the police went to Padga to arrest Nachan based on a tip off they were attacked by villagers and had to return empty handed.
Later, Nachan moved the Bombay High Court which asked him to surrender before police. He surrendered in April 2003.
During the trial, prosecution examined 153 witnesses out of which many (from Padga turned hostile) while the defence examined 30 witnesses.
The trial began in 2014, as earlier some of the accused had challenged POTA and had also challenged clubbing of the cases.
Police sources said that the most important challenge for them during the trial was to trace the witnesses.
“Since many slums were demolished the witnesses started staying somewhere else. If we would have gone to look for the witnesses as police officers we would have failed in tracing them so we decided to go there as LIC agents”, said an officer.
The officer said that posing as LIC agents they told the neighbours and other people that the witnesses had to receive some money from LIC.
Reacting to the judgement, Salian said that she was happy that the victims got justice. “The witnesses in the case are responsible for the conviction. I am just a medium to put the case before the court”, she added.