“Atrocious crime”: SC junks bail plea of Coimbatore serial blast convicts

Oct 04, 2023 07:14 PM IST

As many as 58 persons were killed and 250 injured when 19 bomb explosions rocked Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu between February 14 and 17, 1998

Calling the incident “atrocious”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday denied bail to some of the convicts in the 1998 Coimbatore serial bomb blast case who had cited long pendency of their appeal to secure reprieve.

The Supreme Court of India. (HT file photo)
The Supreme Court of India. (HT file photo)

“All of us are unanimous that the bail cannot be granted...You may be inside for 25 years but 58 people lost their lives in this incident. That is good enough a reason for you to remain inside,” a bench, led by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said.

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The bench, which also included justices CT Ravikumar and Sudhanshu Dhulia, shot down the convicts’ arguments regarding segregation of their role in the incident, and fixed the appeal for a hearing in the second week of February 2024.

“Look at what you have done. 58 people were killed. The nature of crime is an important factor when considering bail. There are concurrent findings by two courts of your guilt. It is an atrocious incident. Now, you are asking us to look at individual roles. Sorry, we cannot do that,” the bench told senior lawyers R Basant and Salman Khurshid, who appeared for the convicts.

Senior counsel V Giri, assisted by Tami Nadu government’s standing counsel Joseph Aristotle, opposed the bail plea. “Apart from the lives that have been lost in the incident, what they have done to a serene city is completely unforgivable,” Giri argued.

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On their part, Basant and Khurshid requested the bench not to dismiss the bail pleas but rather keep them pending for consideration on a future date. The bench, however, was disinclined. “Something which is not to be granted, why keep it pending?” it told the convicts’ lawyers.

As many as 58 persons were killed and 250 had suffered injuries when 19 bomb explosions rocked Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu between February 14 and 17, 1998. The improvised explosive devices, with time delay mechanisms, had been placed in cars, two-wheelers, abandoned bags, push carts, tea cans and so on. SA Basha and Mohammed Ansari, leaders of Muslim militant organisation Al-Umma, were the prime convicts in the case.

Of the 166 accused in the case, the trial court in August 2007 pronounced 69 persons guilty of different offences. In December 2009, the Madras high court upheld the convictions of 18 people – 17 life terms and one 13-year term – in the blast case. The bench acquitted 22 people of all charges for want of sufficient evidence. Most of the life term convicts approached the Supreme Court in appeal.

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