Mumbai : The process of sentencing the accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts has been postponed till next week as the special judge in the case is not in a position to attend court due to injury sustained in a fall.
Pramod Kode, the high-profile special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) judge, was expected to attend court Wednesday but remains out of action, court sources said.
"All matter pertaining to the serial bomb blasts case, including miscellaneous applications slated to come up for hearing Wednesday, have been put on hold till July 2 at least," V.S. Gawas, registrar of the TADA Court, told IANS.
Kode had fractured his right wrist and shoulder after falling in the bathroom of his residence Monday morning. Sources at the TADA court Wednesday said that the judge, who was admitted to a state-run hospital, was discharged Tuesday.
"Though doctors treating the judge have ruled out surgery, now he is under observation. He has been called in for treatment next Monday," a TADA court official said Wednesday.
Interestingly, Kode is known to never have taken leave since 1991. This is the first time he has been absent from work.
He has been presiding over the longest run trail in the country – the trials started in mid 1993 – after taking over from his predecessor J.N. Patel in 1996.
Kode is in the midst of delivering the quantum of sentences for the 100 accused found guilty of their role in the March 12, 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people and injured about 700.
The court is yet to sentence four family members of the prime accused, absconding Tiger Memon, 15 bomb planters, a senior customs official, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt and three other co-accused found guilty under the Arms Act.
Three of the Memon brothers – Yakub, Essa and Yusuf – have been found guilty of charges of possessing unauthorised arms, abetment, criminal conspiracy and harbouring of the accused. They face death penalty.
Three other members of the Memon family – Suleiman Memon, Hanifa Memon and Raheen Memon – have been acquitted of all charges.
But Rubina Memon, wife of Suleiman Memon, has been found guilty of conspiracy and abetment. The prosecution has sought a lesser sentence for her.
The eighth member, Tiger Memon, has been declared absconding while his father Abdul Razzak passed away during trial.
Meanwhile, the prosecution has sought the death sentence for all those who planted the bombs except Imtiaz Ghavate as he suffers from AIDS. The prosecution has sought a lesser sentence for him.
However, sentencing proceedings have been stalled since June 19 after 16 of the accused, including a customs official found guilty of his role in the case, challenged the validity of the special court that tried them.
In an application before the special TADA court, the group cited a Supreme Court observation that TADA proceedings should be quashed as the Act had lapsed.
Kode is yet to pass an order on the application before continuing with the pronouncement of sentences.
Actor Sanjay Dutt and three others convicted under the Arms Act as well as the four family members of Tiger Memon are not party to the application.
The court had been sentencing the convicts since May 18. So far, 76 of the 100 convicts have been sentenced with jail terms ranging from life to five years and fines.
Dutt was found guilty of illegal possession of weapons and could face up to 10 years in prison. No date has been set for his sentencing. The 47-year-old actor, currently out on bail, was found guilty under the Arms Act but has been cleared of the charge of conspiracy under the stringent TADA Act.
Dutt, who spent 18 months behind bars after the bombings, had sought probation under the Probation of Offenders Act on grounds of good behaviour and his bail has been extended several times since he was convicted last November.
The attacks were allegedly masterminded by India's most wanted fugitive Dawood Ibrahim along with Tiger Memon and Mohammed Dossa – all three have been declared absconders by the TADA Court.
Three other accused – extradited mobsters Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa, the brother of Mohammed Dossa, and Riyaz Siddhique – will be tried separately in the case.