Four policemen, another get jail terms in 1993 blasts case


Mumbai : In the first sentencing of policemen in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, a special court Monday sentenced four constables to six years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs.25,000 each, and 10 years in jail to a man who had taken an AK-56 gun from Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt.

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The special Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court here sentenced Manzoor Ahmed, who had taken an AK-56 from Sanjay Dutt's residence and handed it to another person during the blasts, to 10 rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.50,000, or six months in default.

The policemen were sentenced for aiding and abetting in the transportation of smuggled arms and weapons used in the bombings.

The four policemen will have to serve another six months in jail if they fail to pay the Rs.25,000 each.

Meanwhile, the court has summoned Sanjay Dutt to appear before it on May 25. Dutt, who has been found guilty under the Arms Act, but absolved of charges under the more stringent TADA Act, has been asked to be present in court on Friday.

Reading out the sentence Monday, special TADA judge Pramod Kode said: "The four accused police constables Ashok Muneshwar, S.Y. Palshikar, R. Mali and P. Mahadik, who were stationed as police constables at the Srivardhan police station at the time of committing the crime, were part of a police team that had been paid a bribe of Rs.700,000 for allowing the contraband consignment to be cleared."

"All the four were found guilty of not thoroughly checking the truck carrying the smuggled arms and ammunition in spite of intercepting it at Dongar Phata on the night of Jan 9, 1993, after it landed on Dighi, in coastal Maharashtra," Kode said.

Brushing aside the prosecution's plea for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Judge Kode, however, said that the four were subordinates of former police sub-inspector V.K. Patil, another accused who was a senior official and the "main man" who had taken the decision to allow the truck carrying the arms and weapons to pass.

The judge maintained that the accused should not be shown leniency as it would send a wrong signal.

"Taking into consideration the plea of the accused that they being the sole earners of their respective families have lost their jobs following arrest and have already undergone three years imprisonment with three more remaining, the jail term could be extended by a period of six months if they defaulted on the payment of the fine imposed," he said.

On Friday, the court sentenced five persons held guilty under the Customs Act for helping in smuggling of arms and ammunition to a maximum sentence of three-year rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs.25,000.

Sanjay Dutt, along with some other convicts of the serial bombings case, has sought relief under the Probation of Offenders Act (POA), which gives the court power to release a person who has been found guilty of a crime that is not punishable by death or life imprisonment.

He has pleaded for probation instead of the maximum five years imprisonment that he faces, under the Probation of Offenders Act. Relief under POA is subject to a convict's conduct and fulfilling some conditions. He was found guilty of illegally possessing an AK-56 automatic rifle which was smuggled into the country before the blasts.

The court is expected to give the minor sentences first before moving on to the major convictions. So, the sentences will be given out in batches.

The March 12, 1993, serial bombings had ripped through Mumbai, spreading terror and destruction over a two-hour period, killing 257 people and grievously injuring another 713. Property worth Rs.300 million was damaged.

After a long-drawn trial, which started in January 1994, the TADA court housed inside the high-security Arthur Road jail in central Mumbai's Byculla had started pronouncing verdicts from September last year.

The judge is expected to give minor sentences in batches for the remaining 90 convicts, including 44 conspirators, 47 arbitrators, who have all been found guilty under various sections of the stringent TADA Act and three accused found guilty under the Arms Act, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt.