A special court here has said that the accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bomb blasts case used to apply tricks to change their appearance using clothes, glasses, caps and beard to make it difficult for the prosecution witnesses to identify them.
The court of special judge A R Patel on Friday sentenced to death 38 members of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) in the case of Ahmedabad serial blasts, which killed 56 people and injured over 200. It also gave life term to another 11 IM convicts in the case. The quantum of punishment was pronounced 10 days after the special court had convicted 49 people and acquitted 28 others. It is for the first time in the country that maximum number of death sentences were handed down by a court at one go.
In its 7,015-page judgement, which was uploaded on the court’s website on Saturday, the court said it noticed during the course of hearing that the accused were using different tactics to prevent the witnesses from identifying them.
As many as 1,163 witnesses were examined during the course of the case hearing, which went on till September 2021.
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The accused used to be produced before court in small groups through video-conferencing for the witnesses to identify them. During that exercise, they used to apply various tricks, like changing their posture, wearing different dress, wearing or removing caps or glasses, and changing the shape of their beard, among other things, the court said.
But despite their efforts, many witnesses managed to identify several accused, and those who could not do so before the court had done it during the identification parade before the executive magistrate, the court said. Except for 10-12 witnesses, all others provided the account of what they knew about the incident. Several witnesses, however, could not identify the accused, and attributed this to the long gap since they had last seen them, said the court. The court observed that their reasoning can be accepted as the incident had occurred in July 2008 and the prosecution had started producing evidence from 2012 onwards, which went on till 2020. The convicts are currently lodged in different jails across the country – Sabarmati central jail in Ahmedabad, Tihar jail in Delhi and jails in Bhopal, Gaya, Bengaluru, Kerala and Mumbai.
”Witnesses had not seen the accused during all these years…It is but natural for the witnesses to not identify the accused. Furthermore, the accused were produced through video-conferencing, which is different from meeting someone face-to-face. It is also possible for many witnesses to refuse identifying the accused out of fear,” it observed.
The witnesses produced by the prosecution included complainants, panch witnesses, police station officers, forensic officials, those who were present near the places of occurrence (of blasts), those who were injured, their relatives, the kin of the deceased, doctors treating them, said the court.
Among the witnesses were also members of bomb disposal team, investigating officers, landlords of houses which were rented to the accused, owners of shops from where the accused bought nut-bolts, cycles, watches, mobile phones, etc, which were used in making bombs, etc, it said.