MUMBAI - Six years after the twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar, which left 53 people dead, a Mumbai Special Court is expected to deliver its judgement on the “rarest of rare” case here Monday.
A terror module of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit was involved in planting the powerful bombs in two cabs and triggering them by timers on Aug 25, 2003.
It is the most awaited judgement in a terrorist case after the Special TADA Court completed the March 2, 1993, serial blasts trial in 2007 which led to the conviction of 100 people, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, now a Samajwadi Party leader.
The terror attacks were carried out to “avenge” the deaths of Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out in the wake of the Godhra train burning of Feb 27 that year.
After painstaking investigations, the Mumbai Police nabbed the prime accused - Mohammed Hanif Sayed (35 then), his wife Fahimida (30 then), Ashrat Shafique Ansari (26 then), Zahid Yusuf Patni, Rizwan Laddoowala and A. Shaikh Batterywala.
One accused and the blasts mastermind - identified only as Nazir, was subsequently shot dead in a police encounter in Matunga suburb in September 2003, said advocate for the accused S. Kunjuraman.
A total of four cases was filed against all the accused in the case in which a total of 101 witnesses were examined in the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) Special Court, according to Kunjuraman.
They are: the twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar which killed 53 and injured over 100; and a blast outside Ghatkopar railway station July 28, 2003, which left two dead and 31 injured.
The fourth case pertains to planting a bomb in a public BEST bus Dec 2, 2003, at the Special Electronics Export Promotion Zone (SEEPZ), a major commercial hub in Andheri east, which failed to explode.
“If found guilty by the Special POTA Judge M.R. Puranik, then the accused could attract the maximum death penalty,” Kunjuraman said.
Zahid Yusuf Patni offered to turn approver in the case in June 2004 and made a confession of his role in the terror attacks.
He revealed how he lived and worked in Dubai where he met Hanif, who had gone there to work as an electrician. There they met some other persons who provoked them “to take revenge for the Gujarat riots of 2002″.
After hatching the blasts conspiracy in Dubai, they prepared themselves for the assignment with all the required resources and finally carried out the terror strikes in Mumbai.
Patni also revealed that he had been “elected” as chief of the LeT module in Mumbai called ‘Gujarat Defence-Revenge Force’ and he directed all the blasts in the city.
Meanwhile, midway during the trial, a POTA Review Committee recommended that Laddoowala and Batterywala be discharged from the case for lack of evidence, but the POTA Special Court rejected it.
The matter was challenged before the Supreme Court which finally ordered their discharge in November 2008, proving a setback to the prosecution case, spearheaded by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
Incidentally, Nikam conducted the March 12, 1993, Mumbai serial blasts case and is also handling the Nov 26, 2008, Mumbai terror attacks case.
The duo was accused of connecting the timer with the detonator and preparing the other electrical circuits used in the bombs.
During the six-year long trial, 101 witnesses, including a taxi-driver who identified the accused planting the bomb in one of the taxis, were examined. Three Special POTA Judges conducted the trial - A.P. Bhangale, S.S. Joshi and currently, Special Judge Puranik.