Seventeen years have passed since seven bomb blasts ripped through Mumbai’s local trains and killed more than 180 people, but the hearing to confirm the death sentences awarded to four convicts is yet to commence before the Bombay High Court. Due to voluminous evidence in the case, the prosecution and the defence counsels had also approached then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Dipankar Datta, requesting to constitute a special bench for hearing the matter. However, no step has been taken yet in that direction.
On July 11, 2006, the first bomb went off shortly after 6.20pm in a train plying from Churchgate to Borivali. The explosion took place between the Khar and Santacruz stations. In the span of 15 minutes, similar blasts were reported from different locations on the Western line of the city's local trains.
Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the blasts
The probe was handed over to the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) which arrested 13 people allegedly belonging to Indian Mujahideen. In September 2015, the special court – designated under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act – had awarded death sentences to five convicts and life term to seven others. A death sentence awarded by the trial court has to be confirmed by the HC.
Soon, the state government approached the HC seeking confirmation of the death sentence of four convicts – Mohammad Faisal Shaikh, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Naveed Hussain Khan, Asif Khan. They have also filed an appeal challenging the verdict. The fifth convict, Kamal Ahamed Ansari, died due to Covid in Nagpur Prison in 2022. So the case against him stands abated.
The other seven – Tanvir Ahmed Ansari, Mohammad Majid Shafi, Shaikh Alam Shaikh, Mohd Sajid Ansari, Muzzammil Shaikh, Soheil Mehmood Shaikh and Zamir Ahmad Shaikh – have also approached the HC, challenging their life term.
Since 2015, the confirmation pleas and appeals have come up for hearing before nine different benches. However, they have not been heard. It was last listed before a division bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and PD Naik, which recused itself from hearing the case.
Both prosecution and defence have to re-read the evidence
In January 2022, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare had informed the HC that 191 prosecution witnesses and 51 defence witnesses were examined before the special court. Besides, there are 179 volumes of case-related papers. Both, the prosecution and the defence, will have to re-read all the evidence before the HC for deciding the appeals.
Defence counsel Yug Chaudhri, too, said that the documents were voluminous and he alone would take three months to present his evidence before the court.