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