Mumbai, Aug. 31: A Mumbai court has sentenced two members of radical Hindu group Sanathan Sanstha to 10 years for their role in serial blasts in Thane and Navi Mumbai in 2008 but struck off the terror charge.
The June blasts had occurred outside two theatres showing Amhi Pachpute, a parody on the characters of the Mahabharat. While eight persons were injured in the Thane explosion, another bomb kept inside a theatre in Navi Mumbais Vashi was detected before it could explode.
Ramesh Gadkari, 54, and Vikram Bhave, 29, have been convicted under the Explosive Substances Act, some sections of the IPC and the Damage to Public Properties Act.
In its judgment yesterday, the court said the duo were not guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, applied to terror cases, and more stringent charges under the IPC.
The then anti-terrorism squad (ATS) led by Hemant Karkare — slain during the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 — had arrested six persons. Four of them were acquitted yesterday.
The court examined the circumstantial evidence against Gadkari and Bhave to rule out their involvement in a third blast, which occurred in a theatre at Panvel in Navi Mumbai, screening Jodha Akbar around the same time. The ATS had alleged that the accused were angered by the glorification of Akbar in the film.
Sanjeev Punalekar, the defence lawyer for the two convicts, had argued that they had no criminal antecedents and came from middle-class families.
Their intention (behind the blasts) was anger against the producer of the play. The two blasts did not harm anybody. They have already spent three years in jail. The court has ruled they are not terrorists but their families have suffered the stigma.
The defence lawyer also tried to suggest that the attacks were individual acts of aberration by claiming that there was no involvement of Sanatan Sanstha. The group has in the past organised several protests at perceived attempts to denigrate Hindu religious icons.
Public prosecutor Rohini Salian had, however, described Gadkari and Bhave as extremists out to hurt innocent people.
Fortunately, no serious injuries were caused but there could have been more fatalities. The two should be sentenced to at least the minimum of 10 years to send a signal to others who are perpetrating this crime again and again, Salian had argued before judge N.V. Nhavkar.