A special court on Friday awarded death sentence to 38 convicts and life imprisonment to 11 in Ahmedabad serial blasts case in which 56 persons were killed and over 200 injured in 2008.
The court sentenced 38 of the 49 convicts to death under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The 11 others were sentenced to life in jail till death.
Judge A R Patel also awarded compensation of Rs one lakh each to those killed in the blasts, and Rs 50,000 for each victim with serious injuries and Rs 25,000 each for those with minor ones. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 2.85 lakh each on the 49 convicts.
While our lower courts are possibly bound by the maximum fines/compensation they can impose, these sums sound paltry when one looks at the compensations handed out by ‘secular’ governments to victims of public disputes. For eg. Mohammed Akhlaq’s family was given Rs. 45 lakh and 4 houses in Noida as compensation for his death by the then SP government ruling UP.
All 49 convicts are Muslims hail from different states in Bharat. This is the highest number of convicts to be sentenced to death in a single case in Bharat’s legal history. In January 1998, a TADA court in Tamil Nadu had sentenced to death all the 26 convicts in the case of assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
One of the 38 who were sentenced to death is Safdar Nagori (54), General-Secretary of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a key conspirator of the blasts. The son of an Assistant Sub-Inspector in the crime branch of the Madhya Pradesh Police, Nagori hails from Ujjain district and remains remorseless after the sentencing. “The Constitution does not count for me. For me, the decisions of the Koran are supreme,” Bhopal Central Jail Superintendent Dinesh Nargawe quoted Nagori as saying soon after he was sentenced to death.
The special court had last week convicted 49 people and acquitted 28 others, more than 13 years after a series of bomb blasts killed 56 people and left over 200 injured in Ahmedabad, within 70 minutes, on July 26, 2008. Terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) claimed responsibility for the blasts in an email sent to multiple news outlets that stated: “Await 5 minutes for the revenge of Gujarat. In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahideen strike again! Do whatever you can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of Death!” It added that they would “demolish the faith of the infidels of India”.
Wait for justice to terror victims not over yet
It is a given that the convicts in this case will appeal in higher courts, and reports just in confirm that. There will be no dearth of influential Lutyens’ lawyers like Anand Grover, Prashant Bhushan, Nitya Ramakrishnan, Yug Chaudhary, Vrinda Grover who all fought desperately for commutation of the death sentence of terrorist Yakub Memon, convicted for the 1992 Mumbai blasts.
Memon was finally hanged to death on July 30, 2015, over 8 years after he was first sentenced by a TADA court in 2007 and around 22 years after he was arrested. A last-minute mercy petition by Memon’s lawyers was heard after midnight by Supreme Court.
In 2017, Gujarat HC commuted the death penalty awarded by a lower court to 11 convicts in the 2002 Godhra train burning case into life imprisonment. Fifty-nine Hindus, including 27 women and 10 children, were burnt to death after the Sabarmati Express was torched in Godhra on February 27, 2002 by a 1000-strong mob that had pre-planned the brutal attack, pelted stones to ensure no passenger could escape, and even prevented fire trucks from reaching the burning coach. The incident triggered large-scale communal riots in Gujarat. The lawyer representing the victims said that they would approach the Supreme Court against commuting of sentences.
Since 2000, only three terrorists have been hanged – Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab in 2012 (4 years after his arrest), Afzal Guru in 2013 (11 years after arrest), Yakub Memon (21 years after arrest). No other country has suffered from terror as much as Bharat.
We can only wait and watch as the drama over the Ahmedabad 2008 blasts sentences plays out in media and higher courts which are often heavily influenced by the Lutyens’ lawyer cabal.