‘93 Mumbai blasts: SC upholds death for Yakub, 5-year jail for Sanjay Dutt
New Delhi, March 21
A Bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan also upheld the conviction of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt for possession of illegal arms and ammunition at the time of the serial blasts, but reduced his sentence from six years to five years, the minimum punishment for the offence under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA).
The Bench rejected Dutt’s plea for his release on parole or probation by suspending his sentence for a period not exceeding three years in view of various factors.
The SC directed him to surrender within four weeks for serving the remaining 3.5 years of his sentence. He has already served out 1.5 years of his sentence in the case before getting bail from the SC.
Pakistan figures as many as 464 times in the 2,199-page verdict. “Confessions of various co-accused amply prove that the weapons training was organised with the aid of the Government of Pakistan and also clearly show a very deep involvement of A-1 (Yakub Memon) in the organisation and conduct of serial bomb blasts,” the apex court ruled.
Commuting the death penalty of 10 convicts who had actually taken the RDX to 13 locations, including the Bombay Stock Exchange building, and planted them, the SC said they were from the lower strata of society and had “fallen prey” to the ulterior motive of the conspirators to “spread terror among the people.” Further, most of them were in the 20s when they committed the crime, besides the fact that they have been in jail for 20 years. They will be now in prison till their natural death.
The SC, however, clarified that no accused could “claim as a matter of right” commutation on the ground of delay in the judicial process and that it had considered their plea “as an exceptional scenario.”
The SC upheld the death penalty of Yakub Memon for making all the arrangements for the terror strike by sending the other accused to Pakistan for training in handling arms and ammunition and making bombs and for hatching the conspiracy in India, Dubai and Pakistan.
The Bench read out the operative portions of its six judgments in the case for about one hour and 40 minutes in a packed courtroom. Dutt’s sister Priya, who was present in the court, broke down after learning that her brother’s conviction had been upheld.
Among the reasons cited by Dutt for seeking parole were: He is not a previous offender, unlikely to commit any offence in future, suffered the agony of a long trial that lasted 13.5 years, carried the tag of an alleged terrorist until his acquittal by the TADA court of the charge of conspiracy in the serial blasts, got married in 2008, has two kids aged 1.5 years and is helping orphaned and destitute children in his capacity as a Director of the Save Children Foundation.
The SC refused to grant parole, observing that he did not deserve probation as the circumstances and the nature of the offence “are so serious.” However, “taking note of various aspects, we reduce the sentence” to five years, the Bench said without specifying the aspects.
The TADA court had sentenced him for possessing three AK-56 rifles and the ammunition for the weapons, one 9 mm pistol and its cartridges and hand grenades. The court had, however, ruled that these arms and ammunition were part of the consignments smuggled into the country by dreaded underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his associates for carrying out the 1993 serial blasts at 13 locations in Mumbai in which over 250 people were killed and more than 700 injured.
While Dutt came to the SC challenging his conviction, the CBI which had investigated the case and initiated the trial did not appeal against his acquittal in the conspiracy case.
No involvement in blasts, says Pak
Pakistan on Thursday rejected involvement of the government or any of its official agencies in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, saying it was committed to engaging India in a “sustained and result-oriented dialogue”. Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry "categorically rejected any insinuations pointing to the involvement of the government of Pakistan or any of its agencies in such activity".