THE HY­DER­ABAD BLASTS VER­DICT

India Today - - UPFRONT - —Amar­nath K. Menon

On Septem­ber 10, ex­actly 10 years and 16 days af­ter they planted bombs that killed 44 peo­ple and wounded 68 oth­ers at the pop­u­lar eatery, Gokul Chaat Bhan­dar, and the open air theatre, Lumbini Park, in Hy­der­abad, T. Srini­vasa Rao, the Sec­ond Ad­di­tional Metropoli­tan Ses­sions Judge, awarded the death penalty to Aneeq Shafique Say­eed and Mo­hammed Ak­bar Is­mail Chowd­hari from Pune and a life term to a third sus­pect, Tarik An­jum, a civil engi­neer from far­away Delhi, who pro­vided shel­ter to the bombers.

Two oth­ers were re­leased for want of ev­i­dence. The pros­e­cu­tors are plan­ning to move the higher court against the ac­quit­tals even as the pair face trial in other cases in Pune and Mum­bai. An­other three sus­pects, in­clud­ing the out­lawed In­dian Mu­jahideen (IM) founders—its chief Riyaz Bhatkal, his brother Iqbal and their as­so­ci­ate Ameer Raza Khan, hail­ing from Kar­nataka—are still at large, pos­si­bly in Pak­istan.

In the hor­rific bomb­ings of Au­gust 25, 2007, that rocked Hy­der­abad, Judge Rao found Say­eed and Chowd­hari guilty of mur­der un­der Sec­tion 302 and other rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Pe­nal Code and the Un­law­ful Ac­tiv­i­ties Preven­tion Act and awarded the death penalty. Sig­nif­i­cantly, he also awarded them life im­pris­on­ment in an­other case, the plant­ing of a bomb at Dil­sukhna­gar which did not go off and was de­fused by the po­lice.

The con­victs will surely be chal­leng­ing the ver­dict in the high court, cit­ing the Supreme Court or­ders that say death sen­tences can­not be given in cases hav­ing weak ev­i­dence. While the in­ves­ti­ga­tors main­tained that the con­victs in both cases were mem­bers of the IM, the judge ob­served that they were not part of it.

This is the sec­ond ter­ror bomb­ing case ver­dict in Hy­der­abad that has at­tracted the death penalty for the per­pe­tra­tors. The trial in the Dil­sukhna­gar blasts case of 2013 con­cluded more swiftly when the spe­cial court awarded the death sen­tence to the five ac­cused in just three years, in De­cem­ber 2016. That ver­dict has also been chal­lenged in the high court. The pe­ti­tion is yet to be heard but it has left vic­tims’ fam­i­lies in both cases scep­ti­cal.

The sur­vivors of the 2007 bomb­ings and their fam­i­lies had been ap­pre­hen­sive that the con­victs would be given a life term in­stead of the death penalty. And they can­not have been too happy with Judge Rao’s ver­dict ear­lier on Septem­ber 3, which an­nounced that two of the ac­cused, Fa­rooq Shar­fud­din Tar­qash and MD Sadiq Is­rar Shaik, were not be­ing pros­e­cuted at all for lack of ev­i­dence. Some of the vic­tims who have lost their limbs or eyes are de­mand­ing that “the con­victs be sent to the gal­lows swiftly fol­low­ing due process”. They do not want “time to lapse and the Pres­i­dent or the state gov­er­nor to en­ter­tain any clemency pe­ti­tion like those raised by ex­prime min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi’s killers”. That could be a tall ask.

This is the sec­ond ter­ror bomb­ing ver­dict in Hy­der­abad to at­tract the death penalty

MO­HAMMED ALEEMUDDIN

DEATH AND DIS­OR­DER Po­lice­men at Lumbini Park, one of the sites of the twin bomb blasts, Aug. 25, 2007

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