The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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To V-Day, another long road
A policeman keeps vigil outside the Mumbai court on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Sept. 12: This may not have been the longest trial, but the case could set a record for taking the maximum number of days to reach a verdict.

Although the government pleader in the 1993 Bombay blasts case believes it could take around one-and-a-half months, legal experts say the duration will depend on the number of accused held guilty.

Lawyer R.K. Naseem said every accused who has been convicted has to be given an opportunity to cite “mitigating circumstances” for a lenient punishment.

Pre-sentence hearing is a must and every convict has to be given some reasonable time to put forth his case, Naseem said, adding that the prosecution also has a right to rebut arguments on behalf of convicts.

On the importance of hearing a convict before the sentence, legal experts said though the penal system prescribes a range of punishments, the exact sentence is left to the discretion of the judge, who not only looks into the manner and circumstances in which the crime was committed but also the personal life of the convict.

Although not the longest trial, it could take a record number of days to pronounce the verdict against the 123 accused, Naseem said. Last week, a Delhi trial court delivered its verdict in a 1987 case, he added.

On the pronouncement of verdict in batches, experts say with such a large number of accused, the Tada court had no other option. However, it could have first pronounced the judgment against all the accused in batches and then awarded the sentences, also in batches.

But with the court deciding to take up the next batch only after pronouncing the sentence against those convicted in the first lot, convicts could file appeals in the Supreme Court even before all the verdicts in the case are given.

Experts said unless exempted by the judge, it is mandatory for all the accused to be present at the time of the verdict.

After deciding to deliver the judgment in batches, according to the serial number of the accused, the court has exempted from personal appearance the ones whose cases would not be taken up on a given day.

Sanjay Dutt, who is 117th on the list, would have been the worst sufferer if there was no such exemption.

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