20-year jail for former Guj minister in blasts case

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Surat, Oct 4 (UNI) A TADA court today awarded 20 years imprisonment to former Gujarat fisheries minister Mohammad Surti and four others in the 1993 Surat blasts case.

TADA Judge R P Dholadiya, announcing the sentence in a fully- packed courtroom, convicted the former minister and 11 others and acquitted one of the accused. Surti belonged to the Congress.

Besides Surti, the others who were awarded 20 years imprisonment included Hussain Ghadaiyali, former Congress corporator Iqbal Wadivala, Mushtaq Patel and Yusuf Dadu.

The court imposed a fine of Rs two lakh each on Surti, Ghadaiyali and Wadivala. It also slapped fines of Rs one lakh and Rs 50,000 each on Patel and Dadu respectively.

On January 28, 1993, soon after the serial blasts in Mumbai, two bombs exploded in Surat, in which a young girl was killed and 38 others were injured.

The first bomb was lobbed in Varachha area on the outskirts of Surat, in which a young girl Alpa Patel was killed, whereas, the second grenade was lobbed at a train stationed on a platform, injuring 38 passengers.

Police had arrested 13 people including former minister Surti.

A TADA court heard the case and in the process, examined around 166 witnesses including former police officers Sudhir Sinha and Pravin Sinha and former Railway judge R P Mehta.

The police investigation at that time revealed that a portion of the arms cache that was smuggled into Mumbai was diverted to Surat to cause communal tension following the serial blasts in Mumbai.

After the blasts, police had a tough time in apprehending the culprits. Not a single arrest could be made in the case. The city police arrested Mushtaq Ibrahim Patel, an accused, from Varachha in early March 1995 and that led to the chain of arrests in the case.

According to police sources, one of the informers told police that Mustaq Patel boasted in an inebriated state that he was behind the blasts. A special action group (SAG) was formed to investigate the case.

Former fisheries minister Mohammed Surti, his son Farooque, Munir Soni, Hanif Tiger, Hussain Ghadiyali, Salim Chandiwala, Congress corporator Iqbal Wadiwala and city-based mafia don Abdul Latif were named in the incident. Latif was later killed in an encounter with police in Ahmedabad. Five others including Mohammad Surti's son Farook, Salim Lala and Mohammad Gazanavi are still at large and police have declared them as 'wanted'.

All 12 convicts were on the bail till the judgement came in.

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