The Maharashtra government was chastised by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday for failing to appoint a fresh special public prosecutor (SPP) to represent it in the appeals related to the 2006 Mumbai serial train explosions case.
Justices Nitin Sambre and Rajesh Patil, sitting on a division bench, claimed that the administration was not addressing the issue seriously. Although the trial court executed five of the defendants in the case in 2015, the high court has yet to begin hearings on the confirmation of that verdict as well as the defendants’ appeals.
On July 11, 2006, seven bombs that occurred during the evening rush hour in Mumbai killed more than 180 people and injured many more.
The state administration had not yet appointed a special public prosecutor; the court was informed when the appeals were scheduled for hearing on Wednesday. Raja Thakare, a seasoned attorney, was chosen to serve as SPP because he served as the prosecution’s attorney throughout the trial.
He did not want to serve as SPP at the appellate level, though, so the hearing was postponed. Thakare was approached once more by the administration, who asked him to accept the brief. The court was informed that the details of his appointment were still being worked out.
The bench became irate on Wednesday when the administration requested additional time. “Are you handling these appeals in this manner? The government is not handling this matter seriously at all. The judges announced that they would summon the state home department’s top secretary to respond in the morning.
In the end, the high court ordered the government to resolve the matter by September 8 and ordered a representative from the Department of Law and Justice to be present on that day.
“We want someone from the government; we don’t want mid-level officers. We shall contact the principal secretary of the law and judicial department if the aforementioned matter with the appointment of the SPP is not resolved by the day after tomorrow, Justice Sambre warned.
The court also made it clear that it was likely to begin holding daily appeals hearings on October 5. 13 alleged participants of the terrorist group Indian Mujahideen were taken into custody between 2006 and 2008 by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police in relation to the train explosions.
The trial court found 12 of the defendants guilty in September 2015, gave five of them the death penalty, and gave the remaining defendants life sentences. One of the suspects was found not guilty.
Then, the inmates filed appeals contesting their verdicts and sentencing, while the state government filed an appeal with the top court asking for confirmation of the mandatory death penalty.
Since that time, the appeals have been heard by nine separate high court benches.