Nine years after serial bomb blasts in trains rattled Mumbai killing 188 people, a special court here on Friday convicted 12 accused, all allegedly having links with banned SIMI, holding five of them guilty for murder which could attract death penalty.
Delivering the verdict, the Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Judge Yatin D Shinde held 12 of the 13 accused guilty while acquitting one of them.
The convicts were allegedly linked to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The accused were found guilty of charges under IPC, Explosives Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and Indian Railway Act and those under MCOCA.
Five of the accused were found guilty of murder (IPC 302). The court also found all the 12 accused guilty under Section 3 (1) (i) of MCOCA, which could also attract capital punishment.
Those convicted are Kamal Ahamed Ansari (37), Tanvir Ahmed Ansari (37), Mohd Faisal Shaikh (36), Ehtesham Siddiqui (30), Mohammad Majid Shafi (32), Shaikh Alam Shaikh (41), Mohd Sajid Ansari (34),Muzzammil Shaikh (27), Soheil Mehmood Shaikh (43), Zamir Ahmad Shaikh (36), Naveed Hussain Khan (30) and Asif Khan (38).
During the investigations, 13 accused, all of them Indians, were arrested and brought to trial. The chargesheet filed by Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in November 2006 had named 30, 17 of them absconding and out which 13 are said to be Pakistan nationals.
The absconding includes Azam Chima, an alleged Lashker-e- Taiba member.
Arguments for the quantum of sentence are likely to begin on Monday.
The ATS chargesheet had said that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were made in a room in Govandi in suburban Mumbai and some Pakistani nationals were also present during the bomb-making.
Seven RDX bombs had exploded in the first class coaches in many suburban trains on July 11, 2006, killing 188 people and injuring 829.
In the trial that ran for eight long years, the prosecution examined 192 witnesses, including eight Indian Police Service (IPS) and five Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers as well as 18 doctors. The defence lawyers examined 51 witnesses and one person was called as a court witness.
The blast occurred within a span of 10 minutes between Khar Road-Santacruz, Bandra-Khar Road, Jogeshwari-Mahim Junction, Mira Road- Bhayander, Matunga-Mahim Junction and Borivali.
The MCOCA judge had concluded the trial on August 19 last year. The examination of witnesses resumed after two years since the Supreme Court had stayed the trial in 2008.
Before the stay, the prosecution had already examined a police officer. The Supreme Court vacated the stay on April 23, 2010.
Of the 13 accused arrested by ATS between July 20, 2006 and October 3, 2006, 11 had given statements admitting to their involvement in the blasts but later retracted.
The case took a twist when the defence lawyer sought to call Indian Mujahideen co-founder Sadiq Sheikh as defence witness after he told the police in 2008 that IM members were responsible for all the blasts that happened since 2005 including the train blasts. The court had allowed to examine Sadiq as a defence witness.
Reacting to the verdict, former Mumbai police commissioner AN Roy, who had played a key role in the investigation, said he was happy that the court endorsed the chargesheet submitted after thorough investigations by Mumbai police and ATS.
“Investigations were done thoroughly by the Mumbai Police and the ATS. To start with it was a blind case. We had no clue. But I am satisfied with the verdict. Out of the 13 accused who were tried, 12 have been convicted while one is acquitted,” he said.
BJP, Congress and NCP welcomed the verdict. On delay in completion of the trial, they suggested that terror cases should be fast-tracked.