New Delhi, March 21: The Supreme Court today upheld the death sentence on Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, awarded life imprisonment to 32 others and reduced the sentence of actor Sanjay Dutt to five from six years for the Bombay blasts that killed 257 people in 1993.
The court commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty of 10 convicts on the ground that they were “arrows” in the hands of the main archer, Razak Memon, the younger brother of fugitive Tiger Memon, who was a close aide to mastermind Dawood Ibrahim.
But, the biggest surprise was the five-year sentence awarded to Sanjay as many of his fans were hoping that he would be acquitted.
However, the Supreme Court merely reduced his sentence by one year, as a result of which, the Bollywood actor will have to go back to prison to serve the remainder of his nearly three-and-a-half-year sentence.
The actor has the options to file a review petition and, thereafter, a curative petition. But, the chances of success in these two remedies are a little over 1 per cent.
Sanjay said he was “heartbroken” and under “emotional distress” after the Supreme Court verdict.
“I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months. If they want me to suffer more I have to be strong. I am heartbroken, because today along with me, my three children and my wife and my family will also undergo the punishment. I have always respected the judicial system and will continue to do so, even with tears in my eyes,” he said in a statement.
With an estimated Rs 250 crore locked up in films involving the Bollywood star, Sanjay said he would complete all his films and not let anyone down.
“I am overwhelmed by the support of my fans, the industry people, the media and all the well-wishers. They have always stood by me and supported me. I know in my heart that I have always been a good human being, respected the system and always been loyal to my country,” Sanjay said.
The actor, who confined himself in his 10th floor flat at Imperial Heights in suburban Bandra with his family as celebrities paid him visit to express solidarity, said he had to be strong for his family.
“My family is very emotional right now and I have to be strong for them. I am shattered and in emotional distress. I am sorry I can’t come down and meet you all. God is great and he will guide me through this,” he said.
The Bombay blasts on March 12, 1993 — the 20th anniversary fell a week ago — had followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. Gangster Dawood Ibrahim is accused of masterminding the explosions with the active help of Pakistan’s ISI.
“If we say it in a metaphoric style, A-1 (Yakub Memon) and all the absconding accused were the archers whereas rest of the appellants were the arrows in their hands,” the Supreme Court said.
“A-1 was a party, too, the explosives and ammunition required for the execution wouldn’t have entered our country, and as a consequence, the execution itself wouldn’t have materialised. Furthermore, it is not conceivable to envisage that these principal perpetrators will take the execution in their hands.
“So, they targeted the meek souls, who were underprivileged and easily impressible to accomplish their ulterior motive. It is also a proved fact that the Memon’s family members, including A-1, have fled the country anticipating detention for their illegal acts,” the apex court said in a 2,000-page judgment.
The bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan, while upholding the death sentence on Yakub, said the other convicts facing death penalty were mere instruments in the hands of the masterminds because of their poverty as some of them were jobless and vulnerable to exploitation.
Writing the main judgment, Justice Sathasivam also castigated Pakistan for harbouring terrorists, sponsoring terrorist activities in India and also minced no words in hitting out at the corrupt Indian police and customs officials but for whose active involvement the blasts could not have succeeded.
The apex court, however, clarified that its decision to commute the death penalty on 10 convicts to life imprisonment had been done in the present instance on the facts of the case based on the poverty and vulnerability of the convicts, and hence, its decision in the present case could not be considered as a precedent in future cases.
By way of impugned judgment, the designated Tada court in 2007 had convicted 100 persons and acquitted 23.
Justifying the death penalty on Yakub Memon, a chartered accountant, the apex court said: “A-1 is the younger brother of Tiger Memon, (AA), who is one of the masterminds behind the blasts. A-1 was in a position of authority, particularly, had played a significant role in the context of the blasts which is important while determining the sentence.
“The confessional statements of co-accused discussed in earlier part of judgment under A-1’s appeal establish the dominating position of the appellant in comparison with other 10 appellants. A-1’s role was limited not only to the extent of correspondence between the masterminds and all other accused, but he was also entrusted with task of handling the explosive bags and for their safe keeping, which is again revealed in the confessional statements of various co-accused persons.”
The court added: “Essentially, A-1’s deeds can’t be viewed distinct from the act of Tiger Memon, hence, both owe an equivalent responsibility for the blasts. They were the architects of the blasts, without whom the plan would have never seen the daylight.”