'Prized catch, disaster averted'
Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had arrested Sharif Thakkar and Mohammed Kumlakh, both aged 30, in November 2010 on the charges of planning to bomb several vital installations in Mumbai. The ATS had announced the arrests with a lot of fanfare. It said the duo, who had links with J&K Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), were picked up from J&K.
Err...we can't find witnesses
On Thursday, the ATS informed the special Unlawful Activities Prevention Act court that it had no evidence to substantiate the charges and would not pursue terror charges against the duo. The probe agency informed the court that all its efforts to locate the witnesses had gone cold. This clearly puts the ATS on weak ground. However, the agency said that since the two men had been caught with arms so they would now be charges under the Arms Act.
Caught in a Catch-22 situation
If ATS pursues the case under the Arms Act and ensures that the duo is convicted, the maximum punishment for the two will be three years. However, they have already spent nearly four years behind bars as undertrials. Advocate Shariff Shaikh, who appeared on behalf of Thakkar, wondered why the ATS took four years to inform the court that they did not have any evidence to prove that the two were linked to a terrorist organisation. Once the judgement is delivered, Shaikh plans to move the court to seek compensation from the state.
Flop show from very beginning: Defence
Defence advocate Rajendra Bidkar, who appeared for Kumlakh, said, "Right from the time the ATS arrested the two, they came up with several theories. The first was that the two came to Mumbai to recce some important places to carry out blasts. However, the prosecution had no evidence to prove that they were in Mumbai to disturb the city's atmosphere.
"The next theory was that the two were in constant touch with an alleged terrorist named Kara, lodged in a Kashmir prison and that they were sketching the terrorists' plans to disturb Mumbai. But the Kashmir prison claimed that Kara is a rape convict and not arrested under terrorism Act," Bidkar said.
Second blow after Malegaon probe
The ATS has drawn a lot of flak over its probe into the 2006 Malegaon blasts which had claimed 37 lives and left 125 wounded. While ATS had arrested nine Muslim youths for orchestrating the crime, the case took a completely new turn following a sensational revelation by the National Investigation Agency that four members of a Hindu outfit were involved in the blasts. This led to seven of the nine Muslim men getting bail.