It’s been fourteen years, and the horrifying act of violence that did irreversible damage to many families in Ahmedabad finally receives the justice it deserves. Isn’t it better late than never? We don’t believe so because it wasn’t the first time it happened, and it has undoubtedly occurred numerous times in the past. On February 8, 2022, the court convicted 49 people in the serial blasts case, which claimed the lives of 56 people and injured more than 200 others.
On July 26, 2008, 21 explosions ripped through the city in a span of 70 minutes. These bombs exploded in Ahmedabad at various locations, including the state government-run civil hospital, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run LG Hospital, buses, parked bicycles, cars, and other locations, killing 56 people and injuring around 200. One of the 24 bombs, one at Kalol and one at Naroda, did not detonate.
While the accused held training camps in the forests of Gujarat and Kerala, they assembled bombs in rented facilities in cities such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, and Pune.
According to the lawyer, the court stated that the accused were hardened criminals who deserved the death penalty for their terrorist acts. There was no need to show mercy to these accused because they had shown no mercy to innocent people, according to the lawyer, who cited the order.
These accused had incited Muslim youths in the name of retaliation for the post-Godhra riots of 2002, “to remove the anti-Muslim government and to establish an Islamic rule,” according to the lawyer, citing the order.
The plotters of the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts had also planned to assassinate then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. One of the accused convicted for the bombings by a special court here admitted before the court in the past, the prosecution said on Friday.
The court convicted the 49 defendants under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and the Damage to Public Property Act. Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 121 (a) (conspiracy to wage war or attempt to wage war against the nation), 124 (a) (sedition), and Section 16(1)(a)(b) of the UAPA pertaining to terrorist acts were involved.
On Friday, a special court sentenced 38 of the 49 defendants in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts case to death. The remaining 11 convicts were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. AR Patel, a special judge, acquitted the 28 defendants.
Following the sentencing, Public Prosecutor Sudhir Brahmbhatt told the media that a charge-sheet filed by the Gujarat police in 2010 revealed that the convicts, who were associated with terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, had also planned to assassinate Modi, who is now the Prime Minister.
According to a senior lawyer who read a portion of the 7,000-page verdict, the special court judge also stated in his verdict that the convicts attempted to “kill the then CM Narendra Modi, the then Home Minister of Gujarat Amit Shah, and local MLA Pradipsinh Jadeja, but fortunately, they survived.”
According to the lawyer, the court has noted that nearly 30 of the accused were active members of the banned terror outfit SIMI, which was later reactivated as Indian Mujahideen.
The court also noted that the accused had attempted to target Modi and his then-ministers, including Shah, Nitin Patel, Anandiben Patel, and MLA Jadeja because they were the “elected government” under the Constitution, he said, citing the order.
This is a historic judgement because it is the first time in the history of India that a special court has awarded death penalty to as much as 38 individuals. But the fact that 21% of the sanctioned 24,018 i.e. 5,146 posts for judges in subordinate courts are vacant and 68 posts against the sanctioned strength of 168 are yet to be filled somehow reflects why it took 14 years for a special court to punish the culprits of a well planned terror attack.
Despite the commitment and persistent efforts of the current judges, it is very tough to impart the justice process and it is high time that we consider filling these vacant posts at a war footed pace.
The Indian judiciary is under tremendous pressure due to an ever increasing number of cases and the everlasting shortage of judges. The last two years showed us how the Covid left our medical frontline soldiers exhausted but the protectors of justice are surviving a comparable pressure for decades now.
Prince Pokharna, pen name Yuvraj Pokharna ,is an Independent Journalist and Columnist.