Mumbai Suburban Serial blast case, 2006
(Popularly known as 7/11)
Considering the quality of evidence in the charge-sheet, it was expected that the case would be discarded at the charge-framing stage itself. But it didn’t happen. The case ran the full course of its trial and the court handed out punishment of either death or life term to all the accused except one.
The judgement is very voluminous, running into 1839 pages, the highly compressed gist of which bringing out only the vital aspects of the case is given below
The charge-sheet was filed against the following 13 accused and other 15 absconding accused.
- Kamal Ahmed Ansari (A1)
- Tanveer Ansari (A2)
- Faisal Shaikh (A3)
- Ehtesham Siddiqui (A4)
- Majid (A5)
- Shaikh Mohd. Ali Alam (A6)
- Sajid Ansari (A7)
- Abdul Wahid Shaikh (A8)
- Muzzamil Shaikh (A9)
- Suhail Shaikh (A10)
- Zameer Ahmed Shaikh (A11)
- Naveed Husain Khan (A12)
- Asif Khan Bashir Khan (A13)
The judgement is very voluminous, running into 1839 pages, the highly compressed gist of which bringing out only the vital aspects of the case is given below.
A] The most authentic evidence of CDRs discarded :
In the present age of mobile phones and advanced technology, the most authentic piece of evidence of a person’s involvement or non-involvement in a crime is the Call Data Record (CDR) of his mobile phone. In this case the CDRs of mobile phones of many accused persons were found to be not at all tallying with the police version of their locations. e.g.
- The CDR of A13’s mobile no. 9867209894 showed that he was working in his office the whole day from 0905 hrs to 1825 hrs on 11-07-2006 i.e. the period when he allegedly put one of bombs in the train and when, as a result whereof the blast took place. The CDR also confirmed that on 06-07-2006 and 09-07-2006 he had not visited Shivajinagar (Gowandi) or Bandra, where, according to the police version, he had gone on those days as a part of the conspiracy. The contents of the CDR were proved by the nodal officer of the mobile company Airtel.
- The A1 claimed that on 09-07-2006 to 12-07-2006, when he was allegedly hatching the conspiracy in Mumbai, he was in Madhubani district of Bihar and that on 11-07-2006, i.e. the day when blasts actually took place in Mumbai, he was in his village Basopatti in Madhubani district. He further claimed that he had gone to Nepal for four hours on 11-07-2006. All these movements of the A1 have been confirmed by the CDR of his mobile phone which was poved by the deposition of the Principal Circle Nodal Officer of Bharti Airtel. The claim of the A1 was also corroborated by the entries in the register kept at the Indo-Nepal border, which indicated his name, timings of entry and exit, the number of his driving licence and the number of his two wheeler.
- The CDR of the A4’s mobile no. 9867139179 showed that from 07-07-2006 to 11-07-2006, he was at locations other that the ones where he was allegedly present according to the prosecution theory. The contents of the CDR proved that he spoke to his business contacts during that period, that he talked to his wife and mother who were in U.P., that he was in Mira Road at 1630 hrs and 1914 hrs during which period he was allegedly going to Churchgate and putting bombs in the train and that he was at his house in Mira Road, when the blasts occurred. The Nodal officer of the mobile company in his deposition confirmed the contents of the CDR in the court.
The CDRs of the above three persons also showed that they were not in contact with each other and with other accused persons. This evidence of the CDRs alone would have demolished the prosecution theory of conspiracy. But unfortunately the court discarded this important piece of evidence on the following two grounds.
- That the nodal officers of the mobile companies were not technical persons and hence were not competent to prove the contents of the CDRs.
- That the CDRs only gave the locations of the handset of the mobile and not of the person to whom it belonged as the mobile phone was not the body part of the person.
The court has apparently erred on both these counts as, all over the country the depositions of nodal officers are taken as the proof of the CDRs and all over the world, the evidence of the CDR is considered as the clinching evidence of the person’s presence or absence at a particular place unless the contrary is proved by adducing overriding evidence.
In this case, on the other hand, there was ample proof corroborating the CDRs e.g. in the case of A13 the muster record and the pay-slip record of his office and the evidence of persons working in his office and to whom he contacted or met during the period under consideration; in the case of A1 the register kept at the Indo-Nepal border and in the case of A4 his business contacts and family members who contacted him or to whom he contacted on mobile. But for the reasons best known to it, the prosecution did not produce the relevant records or examine important witnesses.
So far as the CDRs of other accused were concerned, they were not easy to come by. As the trial court turned down the request of the accused to make available to them the CDRs of their mobile phones, they had to approach the High Court and it was only after the High Court’s order that some of them received the CDRs. But most of the CDRs were incomplete and in the case of the A11 it was suspected to be manipulated. A9 did not at all receive the data and in case of A2, the MTNL informed that it was unable to retrieve the old data. In fact, the court should have prevailed upon the MTNL to retrieve, with the help of its IT section, the old data which had been archieved in magnetic tapes, as was done by Bharti Airtel. But the court did not do so.
Though the CDRs of A6, A7, A8 and A12 were proved by examining the nodal officers of the mobile companies, the court rejected the evidence of the CDRs on the grounds mentioned in the above three cases.
In case of CDRs which the accused alleged to be either incomplete or manipulated, the court ought to have allowed the accused to prove their claim by cross-checking their call records with the call records of the persons to whom they claimed to have called or from whom they had received calls during the period under review. In fact, the court itself ought to have done that. But unfortunately it did not do so.
Thus, the court has seriously erred in discarding or ignoring the clinching and the most authentic piece of evidence of the CDRs.