On the 16th anniversary of the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts, in which 189 people were killed and 800 were injured, the five convicts facing death penalty are yet to be sent to the gallows.
On Monday, the Bombay High Court adjourned the hearing in their death confirmation, noting that it was “overloaded” (with work) after it was informed that there was voluminous evidence and would take five to six months to hear the same. On July 11, 2006, bombs had gone off in seven suburban trains in a span of 11 minutes.
The Special Court under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) convicted 12 persons; of these, five were sentenced to death. The remaining accused were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The death sentence has to be confirmed by the HC before it can be executed. Accordingly, the Maharashtra government had filed a petition seeking confirmation of the death sentences of four convicts – Mohammad Faisal Shaikh, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Naveed Hussain Khan, Asif Khan – all of them bomb planters. Kamal Ahamed Ansari, one of the planters who was awarded death sentence by the MCOCA court died due to Covid-19 in Nagpur Prison recently. So the case against him stands abated (dropped). The convicts have also filed an appeal against their conviction and death sentence.
During the hearing on Monday, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare informed the bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and MG Sewlikar that there were 190 prosecution witnesses and 51 defence witnesses. Besides, there are 179 volumes of papers. Both the prosecution and the defence will have to re-read all the evidence before the HC for deciding the appeals in the case. Thakare said that it would take five to six months for the hearing in the confirmation plea and appeals by the convicts.
The judges remarked that they are overburdened and asked the counsels to approach the Chief Justice to set up a dedicated bench to hear the case. Thakare informed the HC that they have already approached the Chief Justice with the request and hence the case was listed for hearing before the current bench. The court then said it will keep the plea for hearing in August.
Before this, the confirmation plea had come up for hearing before benches headed by Justices BP Dharmadhikari, S Shinde and Sadhana Jadhav, respectively. However, it could not be taken up for final hearing as the head judges were due for retirement.
Even a bench headed by Justice Revati Mohite-Dere recused from hearing the appeals as Justice Dere had appeared as a prosecutor in the case earlier.