MUMBAI: Seeking leniency for the 12 convicts in the Mumbai train blasts case, a defence lawyer today pointed out that even in the 1993 blasts case, the Supreme Court ultimately commuted the death sentence of all but one.
Trial judge Yatin Shinde is hearing arguments on the quantum of punishment. The serial blasts in local trains in Mumbai on July 11, 2006, killed 188 persons. Advocate Yug Mohit Choudhary, quoting the Law Commission's report, pointed out that since 2000 the appellate courts had acquitted the accused or commuted the sentences in 95.7 percent of cases where the trial court awarded death sentence.
Death sentence doesn't deter criminals, he said, adding that between 2000 and 2012, 1,677 persons were awarded death sentences by trial courts, which the Supreme Court had found to be an alarmingly high figure. In the present case, the prosecution hadn't brought any evidence to show that the convicts were not reformed, he said. In the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, where 257 people died, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts, upholding the death only for Yakub Memon, he said.
"Can death be based on the confessional statement (as in this case)?" Choudhary said, adding that where there is mainly circumstantial evidence, death punishment cannot be given and "residual doubt is a mitigating circumstance". Arun Ferreira, acquitted in a case in which he was accused of having links with the Naxals, today deposed for the defence, saying that he knew convicts Mohammad Majid Shafi, Mohd Sajid Ansari and Muzzammil Shaikh personally as they were his jail mates in the Nagpur prison.
All the convicts of blasts case behaved well in the prison, Ferreira said. "Majid was an emotional person. Whenever anybody was sent to fansi (hanging) yard after getting the capital punishment, he would calm them by saying that they will be released soon," Ferreira said. Choudhary will continue arguments tomorrow.