An Indian court sentenced five men to death Wednesday for the multiple blasts on Mumbai’s local trains in 2006 that killed 189 people, lawyers said, dpa reports.
Seven other convicts were given life imprisonment.
A total of 12 accused were found guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy among other charges by special court judge YD Shinde two weeks ago. One was acquitted for lack of evidence.
“The five bomb planters were given death sentences and the rest life sentences for various offences,” KP Raghuvanshi, former chief of Mumbai police’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS), said.
Seven bombs ripped through first-class compartments of suburban trains during rush hour on July 11, 2006. Over 800 were injured.
Indian investigators alleged that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency planned the blasts and they were carried out by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group with help from the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, a banned group.
Pakistan rejected the allegations.
Fifteen people accused of involvement in the attacks, including the alleged masterminds, have never been caught.
The nine-year-long case has been mired in accusations of shoddy investigation by the police, with defense lawyers charging that they trumped up evidence against innocent young Muslim men while the guilty got away.
“The court examined all the evidence in great detail,” Raghuvanshi said. “My ATS team’s investigations have been vindicated and it is a form of closure for the families of the victims and injured.”
“We would be happier if we could have arrested those who escaped,” the retired officer added.
Defense lawyer Sharif Sheikh called the sentence a “gross miscarriage of justice.”
“The court’s appreciation of the evidence was not proper, it had so many gaps and some of it was clearly manufactured by the police.”
The defence would appeal both verdict and sentence, Sheikh said. Under India’s judicial system, a trial court’s judgment can be challenged in the High Court and then the Supreme Court.
According to the police, the high-intensity RDX bombs used in the 2006 serial blasts were packed in pressure cookers.
The explosives were all detonated in an 11-minute period, in the areas of Matunga, Mahim, Bandra, Khar Road, Jogeshwari, Borivali and Mira Road, while most of the trains were moving.
The explosives reportedly blew off the double-layered steel roofs and walls of the train compartments.
The special court concluded the trial in August 2014 after examining more than 200 witnesses including senior police officials and bureaucrats.
‘Justice delayed but not denied’
“This justice is a bit delayed, but not denied. Our judiciary has given a message to all that those guilty of such heinous crimes won’t be spared. I hope the departed souls (victims) are at peace now,” said chartered accountant and Western Railway (WR) commuter Nagesh Dubey.
Commuter and sub-broker in the Mumbai stock market, Pramod Harlalka said, “Had the verdict come in the first few months of the blasts, it would have acted as a deterrent. I think the judgement should have come earlier.”
Terming the sentencing as “better late than never”, suburban passengers’ representative in WR, Rajiv Singal said, (all) these are people who should not be getting less than capital punishment.”
Divya Trivedi, another commuter, said: “The government should formulate new rules to punish such traitors instantly. There is no point in hanging only a few conspirators while the rest of them are allowed to live.”
“Justice will be done only after the convicts are hanged to death. We have lost our son. What happened to us should not happen to anyone else in future. A strong message has to be sent by our judicial system that such acts will not be dealt with lightly,” said Jayprakash Sawant, father of a train blast victim Parag.
Yogita, mother of two and a Dahisar resident whose husband was killed in the blast, said: “The court has given a correct punishment. They (convicts) took so many lives in a matter of few minutes, but it took nine years to prove them guilty.”