Godhra verdict: Ahmedabad court convicts 31, acquits 63 (Second Lead)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AHMEDABAD - Thirty one people were held guilty by a special court here Tuesday for the Godhra train carnage in which 59 people, mostly ‘kar sevaks’ returning from Ayodhya, were burnt to death, triggering the 2002 Gujarat communal riots. The court also acquitted 63, among them a prime accused.

Additional sessions judge P.R. Patel delivered the verdict in confines of the Sabarmati Central Jail here. He convicted 31 people, accused of hatching a conspiracy that killed the 59 people who were travelling in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express Feb 27, 2002.

Among the 63 accused let off by the court was Maulvi Saeed Umarji, believed to be the prime accused in the case.

“The sentence will be announced Feb 25,” said J.M. Panchal, special public prosecutor in the case.

The court was the first one to pronounce a judgment, among the nine trying the 2002 Gujarat riots cases.

The conviction against the 31 was following charges Section 149, 302 (murder), 307, 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 324, 325, 326, 332, 395, 397, and 436 of the Indian Penal Code and some sections of the Railway Act and Bombay Police Act.

Panchal said he was satisfied with the judgment. “It is a judicial verdict and everybody must respect it,” he said.

According to the chargesheet filed in the case, an unidentified mob of around 900 to 1,000 people attacked the train near Godhra railway station Feb 27, 2002.

The incident, which was labelled as a conspiracy, triggered state-wide communal violence, in which over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The Supreme Court had ordered a probe into the riots by a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The court had reserved its judgment in September last year.

In the final count, there were 95 accused in the case, of whom 80 are lodged inside the Sabarmati Central Jail and 15 have been released on bail.

Initially, all the accused were facing charges under the stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). However, POTA charges were revoked by the Gujarat High Court in the Godhra case following the recommendations of the Central POTA Review Committee. The Supreme Court also rejected a petition challenging the constitutional validity of POTA (repeal) Act, 2004. The accused were facing criminal charges under the Indian Penal Code and other laws like Indian Railways Act.

The trial in the case had begun with the court framing charges against the accused in June 2009. During the trial, the court had examined 254 prosecution witnesses.

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