A special Prevention of Terrorism Act court on Wednesday sentenced to life three of the 10 convicted in the multiple blasts that rocked the metropolis between December 2002 and March 2003, killing 13 people while key accused Saquib Nachan was handed out a 10-year jail term.
Special POTA Judge P R Deshmukh said that convict Muzammil Ansari (who had planted the bombs) will undergo imprisonment till the end of his life. "I am of the view that to award capital punishment to Ansari in present case just falls short of the rarest of the rare case. Therefore I am not inclined to endorse the punishment of death sentence to Ansari," Deshmukh observed.
The judge if a person is hanged then within a fraction of a second, his life comes to an end, and he does not realise or feel the mental, emotional and physical agony which victims of the crime or dependents of deceased suffered or suffering for their whole life, undergo.
Two other convicts who were granted life are Farhaan Khot and Wahid Ansari. Six others were awarded various jail terms ranging from 2-10 years. The court ordered that 75 per cent of the fine amount (Rs 9.45 lakh) recovered (from the convicts) will go to the district legal services authority while rest will go to the Indian Railways as compensation towards damages caused to Railway on account of Mulund (blast) incident.
"As far as compensation to be paid to victims or dependents in the case of death (is concerned), there is no sufficient material on record, though some injured witnesses admitted about receipt of compensation from Railway department. Hence there is difficulty in awarding compensation to the victims of incidents and dependents," the court said.
However, it directed DLSA, Mumbai to decide the quantum of compensation to be awarded to the victims and dependents and accordingly pay it.
On Tuesday, the court had reserved its verdict on the quantum of sentence to ten persons convicted for their role in the multiple blasts, until Wednesday. Earlier, on March 29, the court had convicted key accused Saquib Nachan, Ateef Mulla, Hasib Mulla, Ghulam Kotal, Mohammed Kamil, Noor Malik, Anwar Ali Khan, Farhaan Khot, Wahid Ansari and Muzammil Ansari in the case.
Twelve people were killed in Mulund train blasts on March 13, 2003. Prior to that, on December 6, 2002, several persons were injured in a blast at McDonald's at Mumbai Central station, while a person had died in a blast in a market in Vile Parle (East) on January 27, 2003.
During the course of arguments on the sentencing, special public prosecutor Rohini Salian had demanded capital punishment for Muzammil Ansari.
She had also sought life imprisonment for Saquib Nachan, Gulam Khotal, Farhaan Khot and Dr Wahid Ansari.
In a combined chargesheet, filed against 15 accused in the Mulund, Vile Parle and Mumbai Central blast cases, police had charged them with offences under POTA, the Explosive Substances Act and preparation to wage war against the nation and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
Two accused died during the trial and cases against them were abated. Six are still wanted in the case.
During the trial, prosecution examined 153 witnesses while the defence examined 30 witnesses.
The trial began in 2014, as earlier some of the accused had challenged POTA and had also challenged clubbing of the cases.
Meanwhile, terming the punishment as "inadequate and insufficient", a victim's kin said the verdict needs to be collectively opposed.
Nand Kishore Salvi, younger brother of Ramakant Salvi, who was killed in the 2003 Mulund blast, said, "I have come to know that no one has been awarded the death sentence. I feel the punishment could have been harsher. Possibly death penalty would have sent the right signal to such anti-national elements."
"After a long wait of 13 years, this punishment does not satisfy us. It is inadequate and insufficient. Not only me, I can say that none of the victim's families would be happy," he added.
When asked, what he will do or whether he will request the government to challenge the verdict in higher courts, Salvi said, "First, we need to go through the details of the order.
Then I will try to reach out to other relatives of blast victims and then take the final course of action...we would definitely do something and try to challenge it collectively."
Recalling that fateful night, Salvi said, "Ramakant was 57 and was a gazetted officer in the Bombay high court. He was planning for his post retirement life. But suddenly, everything was snatched from him and his family".
Salvi also thanked Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Kirit Somaiya for his follow up with the government and other agencies which really helped the families of the victims and aided their rehabilitation.
"Though my brother's family got compensation, but the credit goes to Kirit Somaiya, who persuasively followed up the rehabilitation issues and kept regular contact with us.
Otherwise, we would have had to undergo more hardship to secure justice," he added.