New Delhi: Twenty years after the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai, the Supreme Court Thursday upheld the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and commuted the death sentence of 10 others. The apex court also upheld the conviction of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt under the Arms Act and sent him to five years in prison.
While confirming Yakub Memon's death sentence, the bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan said his "deeds can't be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence, both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts". The 13 blasts in India's financial capital on March 12, 1993, claimed 257 lives and left 713 injured.
The judges also slammed Pakistan for aiding and abetting the acts of terrorism in infringement of international obligation as a member of United Nations.
The court described the Memon brothers as the "driving spirit" and "architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight". While Yakub is in a Nagpur jail, Tiger Memon is believed to be in Pakistan along with fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim.
Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, the most high profile of the accused, was asked to surrender in four weeks.
The actor, who was convicted under the Arms Act for illegally possessing weapons, had been awarded six years imprisonment by the TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court. However, the apex court reduced the sentence from six years to five years. This effectively means that Dutt will be in jail for three years and six months as he has already undergone 18 months imprisonment.
Referring to the 10 accused whose death sentence was commuted, the court said: "Since Yaqub Memon as well as other absconders were the real conspirators who hatched the scheme for such a tragic act, the other 10 appellants were mere subservient subordinates whose knowledge and acquaintance might have been restricted to their counterparts."
"Yaqub Memon also played an active role in generation and management of funds for achieving the object behind the conspiracy and in all subsequent events," the court said.
"We confirm the death reference with regard to Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and commute the death sentence into life imprisonment for rest of the appellants" who were convicted and sentenced to death by the TADA court, the judges said.
The court clarified that the 10 would be "imprisoned for life until their death".
Anticipating a move to grant remission of sentence to the 10, the court said: "We may add a footnote to the above conviction that the executive should take due consideration of judicial reasoning before excising the remission power."
Those whose death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment are Zakir Hussain Noor Mohd. Shaikh, Abdul Khan @ Yakub Khan Akhtar Khan, Firoz @ Akram Amani Malik, Mohammed Mushtaq Moosa Tarani, Asgar Yusuf Mukadam Shahnawaz Abdul Kadar Qureshi, Mohammed Shoeb Mohammed Kasam Ghansar, Abdul Gani Ismail Turk, Parvez Nazir Ahmed Shaikh and Mohd. Farooq Mohammed Yusuf Pawale.
Holding that they had an effective control in the execution of conspiracy, the court said: "If we say it in a metaphoric style, A-1 (Yaqub Memon) and all the absconding accused were the archers whereas rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands."
"Technically, it is these 10 appellants who parked the explosive filled vehicles in the respective destinations...."
Taking note of other mitigating circumstance in favour of the 10, the court said all of them belong to the "lower strata of society, most of whom don't even have any regular job for their livelihood" and their personal life was relatively moderate before this incident".
The court said they had "fallen prey to the ulterior motive of the conspirators for accomplishing their hidden motives, which was to spread terror among the people".
The court also came down heavily on Mumbai police and customs officers at all levels. But for their wrong actions the 1993 bombings could have been avoided.
A TADA court had in 1993 awarded death sentence to 12 people, including Memon. One of them has passed away. The court had also sentenced 20 people to life imprisonment and 46 others, including Sanjay Dutt, were given varying terms of imprisonment.
The TADA court trial court of Justice P.D. Kode had commenced the trial Nov 4, 1993, and pronounced its 4,230-page verdict on July 31, 2007.