HC com­mutes death sen­tence for 11 Godhra con­victs

Mint Asia ST - - News - BMY AUL IK PAT HAK

The

Gu­jarat high court on Mon­day, 9 Oc­to­ber, com­muted the death penalty awarded by a lower court to 11 con­victs in the 2002 Godhra train burn­ing case into life im­pris­on­ment.

The high court up­held the con­vic­tion of 20 other peo­ple who were sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment by a spe­cial court which had in 2011 con­victed the 31 peo­ple of mur­der and con­spir­acy.

The spe­cial court had ac­quit­ted 63 oth­ers due to lack of ev­i­dence, which no­tably in­cluded prime ac­cused Maulana Umarji.

The high court’s de­ci­sion on Mon­day re­fused to change the lower court’s ver­dict. The trial at spe­cial court be­gan in June 2009 with the fram­ing of charges against 94 ac­cused of whom 63 were ac­quit­ted. The court had also ruled that a crim­i­nal con­spir­acy had led to the train fire in­ci­dent.

All 31 con­victs would now spend their lives in prison for at­tempt to mur­der and crim­i­nal con­spir­acy in set­ting ablaze a coach of the Sabar­mati Ex­press in 2002, the high court said in its or­der on Mon­day.

The train was re­turn­ing with pas­sen­gers from the site of the Babri Masjid in Ay­o­d­hya that had been de­mol­ished in 1992. As many as 59 pil­grims, re­turn­ing from Ay­o­d­hya were charred to death when a mob con­sist­ing of peo­ple from the Mus­lim com­mu­nity at­tacked the train and torched the S6 coach near Godhra rail­way sta­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2002. The in­ci­dent trig­gered com­mu­nal ri­ots across Gu­jarat in which more than 1,000 peo­ple were killed. Even af­ter the spe­cial court de­liv­ered its ver­dict in Fe­bru­ary 2011, some of the ac­cused were nabbed and put on trial.

In a set­back to the govern­ment, the high court to­day sharply crit­i­cized the state gov- ern­ment and the In­dian Rail­ways for mis­er­ably fail­ing to main­tain law and or­der in the 2002 in­ci­dent. The high court also di­rected the govern­ment and the Rail­ways to pay Rs10 lakh each to the fam­i­lies of those killed in the Godhra train burn­ing in­ci­dent.

The Gu­jarat high court also dis­missed an ap­peal by the Gu­jarat govern­ment against the 63 peo­ple who were ac­quit­ted.

A num­ber of ap­peals in front of a di­vi­sion bench in the high court had chal­lenged the con­vic­tions and ac­quit­tals that were handed out in the case by the trial court. A Supreme Court-mon­i­tored spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion team (SIT) had sought cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for all those who were con­victed in the high court. SIT lawyers told the court that they would study the judg­ment be­fore de­cid­ing whether to chal­lenge it in the Supreme Court.

The Nana­vati Com­mis­sion, ap­pointed by the Gu­jarat govern­ment to probe the train burn­ing, had in its re­port con­cluded that the fire was not an ac­ci­dent, but a con­spir­acy and that the coach was set ablaze by a mob.

Ear­lier this week, the Gu­jarat high court re­jected a pe­ti­tion by for­mer law­maker Eh­san Jafri’s widow chal­leng­ing the clean chit given by SIT in 2012 to then Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and other top politi­cians and bu­reau­crats for the 2002 ri­ots.

Pe­ti­tioner Zakia Jafri’s hus­band, for­mer Con­gress MP Eh­san Jafri was among 69 peo­ple killed in the Gul­barg hous­ing so­ci­ety in Ahmed­abad dur­ing the ri­ot­ing.

REUTERS

Train burn­ing case: Fifty-nine peo­ple were killed when a train com­part­ment was set on fire at Godhra sta­tion in Gu­jarat in 2002.

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