MUMBAI: A special Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court on Tuesday convicted 10 accused, including a leader of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, and acquitted three in the case of the 2002-2003 blasts which took place at Mumbai Central, Vile Parle and Mulund. The court is likely to pronounce the quantum of sentence on Wednesday.
Three bombs exploded in three different parts of the city in a span of a little over three months. The first blast took place on December 6, 2002, at a McDonald’s restaurant on the main building premises of the Mumbai Central railway station. The second blast on January 27, 2003, in a crowded market in Vile Parle (East) and the third in a jam-packed Karjat-bound local train at Mulund railway station on March 13, 2003. The blasts killed 12 people and injured 27.
The convict and main conspirator Saquib Nachan was the secretary of the SIMI. The accused have been convicted under sections of the IPC for waging war against the nation, criminal conspiracy as well as POTA sections for plotting acts of terror, apart from the Explosive Substances Act and the Arms Act for possessing weapons illegally. It is the last case under the POTA, which has been pending for a decade.
The case moved slowly till 2013 as the accused had made allegations of bias against the police. The Bombay High Court expedited the trial and the charges were finally framed in 2014. The prosecution clubbed all three blasts cases, arguing that the cases were bound by a common conspiracy. The police had arrested 16 people in connection with the blasts, they were tried together, and three of them were released on bail.
Most of the accused were arrested in 2003. Nachan had surrendered on April 10, 2003. He and other four convicts were from the same village, Padgha near a Muslim ghetto of Bhiwandi.
Apart from Nachan, those arrested include an engineer, Muzammil Ansari, and Dr Anwar Ali, a PhD holder who taught Urdu at the National Defence Academy, Pune.
The police had claimed that the group’s intention was to wage war against the nation as they wanted to avenge the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Gujarat riots and atrocities committed against Muslims in India. The police said they had planned the blasts with the help of two Pakistani nationals Abu Sultan, Abu Anwar Ali and a resident of Kashmir Mohammed, Iqbal Wani. They all are suspected operatives of Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The police had also claimed that the group was trained in firing weapons on a hillock near Padgha. It had also recovered lethal firearms like AK-56 and AK-47 from their homes.