The 1993 Mumbai bomb blast case was my first appearance in a Mumbai court, for a lawyer who came from Jalgaon. The state government wanted a lawyer who had never defended an accused to be the public prosecutor. My job was to study the police investigation and fight this historic case. In this case, which went on for 14 long years, 123 people were convicted, of which 100 accused were sentenced. Yakub Memon was among the most prominent.
When he was first brought to court, I remember seeing him as this quiet and reserved person. He is a chartered accountant so took detailed notes of the evidence. He was quiet and aloof, never mingled with the others and only spoke to his lawyer. An intelligent man, he closely monitored the entire trial.
The evidence against him and some of the key accused was clinching. Yakub Memon was among the key conspirators who had left Mumbai before the blasts. He had been part of the conspiracy which was hatched in Dubai.
The decision of the government to hang him to death is historic. He is the first convicted person in the case to be hanged to death. Besides being Tiger Memon's brother, Yakub was a key conspirator.
He had travelled to Dubai for the meeting which was attended by Dawood Ibrahim and three other Pakistani nationals. The conspiracy was hatched in Dubai and then people were taken to Pakistan for training in how to use RDX-laden bombs and other weapons like rocket launchers. Around 15 people were sent to Pakistan for training and after that, they travelled to Dubai and then to Mumbai. What's interesting here is that when we seized the passports, we saw that while the entry and exit from Dubai airport was shown, there was no evidence of embarkation or disembarkation in any other country, stamped on these passports. This goes to show that they country they visited - Pakistan - had taken great care to ensure that there was no entry stamped.
Of these 15 people, two turned approver and told the police and the court about how the Pakistani immigration authorities had taken care to avoid that entry. The role of the ISI was obvious!
The police recovered Arges 69 hand grenades and unexploded hand grenades. We also found documentation to show that a certain country had only recently sold the technology of Arges 69 hand grenade to Pakistan.
Tiger Memon had fitted the RDX and the police recovered brown wrappers on the RDX which showed that this was procured from Waha Cantonment in Pakistan. It was for the first time that the RDX was used in a terror attack. It was earlier only made and used by the army. The link was clear. Dawood used his channels to smuggle this RDX from Pakistan to India through the coastal town of Raigad.
The trial went on for 14 years and not a single accused protested that the trial was dragging on. They were keen that the trial should carry on because they all knew that they had committed the crime and would be sentenced. They wanted the facilities offered to undertrials. So they wanted the delay. The case was watertight and the historic judgement was delivered.
Yakub has exhausted all his options of appeal and so the Maharashtra government has announced the date. It's unfortunate that political parties are playing games over it; it can create a rift between communities. Majeed Memon's comments show disrespect to the judicial system and dashing the common man's belief in the judiciary. The sentence should be executed. It will be the first such in this historic case.
(As told to Aditi Pai.)