MUMBAI: Fifteen years after a series of blasts in suburban trains and on railway premises rocked the city, the Bombay high court on Friday upheld the life sentence awarded to Pakistani national Javed Gulam Hussein and eight others.
While the court acquitted one accused for lack of evidence, the case against two others abated after they died during the pendency of the appeal.
A division bench of Justice P V Hardas and Justice Revati Mohite Dere said that the prosecution had proved the blasts conspiracy. Additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik said the same type of material was used in all the blasts which pointed to a single conspiracy.
Between January 23 and February 27, 1998, four blasts were carried out in the city-on the railway tracks between Kanjurmarg and Vikhroli stations, in a train approaching Virar station, on the tracks between Goregaon and Malad stations and on platform no. 2 at Kandivli station-killing four and injuring 30 others.
According to the police, the conspiracy was hatched in December 1997, at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence to set off explosions on the city’s lifeline.
There were also two other accidental blasts, which gave the police the first few leads in the investigation. The first blast was in a toilet at Jama Masjid in August 1997, and the second one took place on February 27, 1998, when Santa Cruz resident Ashfaque Shaikh fell on a road in Golibar and dropped his bag, setting off a blast.
Ashfaque, who was left disabled after the blast, led the police to his brother and one of the main accused Aftab Shaikh, a resident of Golibar. Traces of the material that matched those used in the bombs were found at his residence, said the police.
On June 29, 2004, a sessions court convicted the accused finding them guilty of murder, attempt to destabilize the country and to create communal rift in the country, and senteneced them to life imprisonment. The trial court directed the authorities to lodge them in different jails considering the gravity of the offences committed by them.
The court rejected the prosecution’s plea to sentence a few of the main conspirators for death.
Ashfaque initially agreed to be an approver and was pardoned by the trial court. But later, he retracted his statement. Following this the court recalled its pardon order and charged him with conspiracy.
The prosecution’s star witness was a tailor, Shailesh (name changed), who worked for Aftab. Shailesh told the police that he had overheard Aftab and some of the co-accused planning the blasts. Despite intense cross-examination, Shailesh stuck to his statement in court. The HC said his evidence had emerged “unscathed” and could be relied upon to nail the prime accused. “The evidence of conspiracy is of sterling quality and despite the fact that there is no other corroboration, we find that implicit reliance can be placed on the testimony in respect of the criminal conspiracy,” said the court while upholding the convictions.
On June 29, 2004, a sessions court had convicted the accused finding them guilty of murder, attempt to destabilize the country and to create communal rift in the country. The trial court had gone as far as to direct the authorities to lodge the accused in different jails considering the gravity of the offences committed by them. The court, however, rejected the prosecutions plea to sentence some of the main conspirators for death.