Godhra verdict travesty of justice, says lawyer Prashant Bhushan (Lead, superseding earlier story)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NEW DELHI - Prominent Supreme Court lawyer and public interest activist Prashant Bhushan Tuesday said the verdict in the Godhra train carnage case coming nine years after the incident was a “travesty of justice” and added that it reflected poorly on India’s judicial system that most of the 63 acquitted people were in jail for all these years.

“It is a travesty of justice. I understand most of the 63 persons let off today were denied bail and spent all these years behind the bars,” Bhushan told IANS Tuesday, soon after the verdict.

“While I will wait for the details of the judgment to make any further comment, it is a sad commentary on the delays of the judicial system that such a long wait had to be made for a verdict.

“Who will compensate for the loss of their valuable years of life? What has the government to say about the difficulties and defamation faced by the acquitted persons and their families,” he asked.

Bhushan said the verdict cannot be considered the final word in the case as the convicted people can move the higher courts.

However, Ranji Thomas, another noted lawyer, said: “The verdict should be looked at a legal angle alone and no one should politicise the case.

“Only thing I can say is this was a highly discussed case in the judicial and public circles. And today’s verdict should not be considered as the final, as the convicts can go in appeal to higher courts,” he said.

He pointed out that the Godhra incident had been dealt by more than one commission and court.

Thomas, who is also a secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), said that he was speaking only in the role of a lawyer and not as a politician.

“Everyone - lawyers, politicians and others - should approach the case as a judicial issue and not a political issue.

“From a human angle, I want to say that violence has no religion, colour or politicial affiliation. Nobody should justify it in courts or outside”, he said.

Thirty-one people were held guilty by a special court in Ahmedabad 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 people, among them a prime accused.

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.

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