The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Before the sentence, the fine print

Judge P.D. Kode, presiding over the Bombay blasts case, has asked several key accused to be present in court on Thursday. The options before him and answers to some questions the process of delivering the verdict has raised:

What are the options before the judge'

a) The judge has made it clear he wishes to deliver the verdict part by part on batches of accused.

b) He could give in to the request by the defence and the prosecution to hand the verdict on all the 123 accused, and then go on with arguments on the sentencing of those convicted. This will cut short the agony of waiting and allow the acquitted to breathe easy. So far, he has rejected this line of argument but could still consider it at a later stage if he feels the batch-wise verdict is too time consuming.

Will the other accused have to be present on Thursday'

Not all 123 need to be present. The judge has asked only the 29 in custody to be in court. In the post-lunch session, he will hear arguments on the sentence of the four Memons convicted. So they are likely to be present. Sanjay Dutt’s presence may not be necessary since he is accused No. 117.

When is the next hearing likely'

Hearings will be held daily except on Sundays.

When will the sentence be delivered'

Judge Kode has opted for a “staggered judgment”, which means he will deliver the verdict in batches according to the serial number of the accused. If he convicts an accused, arguments between the defence and the prosecution on the sentence will follow. These will be recorded by the court. The final order on punishments will be given after the whole process on all 123 accused is complete, which may take four to eight weeks.

If acquitted, are the accused free to go home right away'

If acquitted, bail granted to the accused will be cancelled and they will be allowed to go home after the paperwork. But they have to attend court when necessary till the final sentence.

What if they are in prison now and are acquitted' Can they go home straight'

Interim bail will be granted and the accused allowed to go home after completing the paperwork. Again, they will have to attend court when necessary till the final sentence.

If an accused like Yakub, who has spent 12 years in prison, is sentenced to 10 years, can he go home then'

The time spent in custody is considered during the arguments and deducted from the total period of sentence. So if Yakub is sentenced to less than 12 years, he will be a free man.

If Yakub is sentenced to five years, what about the seven years he has lost in jail'

There is no remedy for delay caused by legal proceedings. He has no right to sue. However, when a case drags on, the judge usually grants bail to an accused who has served the time he is expected to be sentenced.

If he is sentenced to life, will he be released after 14 years'

This is a popular misconception. Life means lifetime but people get out after 14 years if the executive authority — in this case the state government in consultation with jail officials — grants pardon. The court has no role in it.

As of now, how long is the verdict process expected to roll'

Four to eight weeks, according to conservative estimates. How fast it rolls will depend on the size of the batches of accused chosen every day. If the verdict on all the accused involved in each explosion comes together or all those who actually planted the bombs are picked as a batch, it could speed up the process.

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