Godhra train burning case sentencing March 1 (Third Lead)

Friday, February 25, 2011

AHMEDABAD - All the 31 men convicted of setting a train coach on fire near Godhra in Gujarat, killing 59 people in 2002, will be sentenced by a court here March 1.

The prosecution Friday sought the death penalty for all the 31, terming it a “rarest of rare case”, while the defence has appealed that the convicts be spared the noose and sentenced to life in prison.

The appeals were made to Additional Sessions Judge P.R. Patel in his court within the high-security Sabarmati prison here.

The judge had Tuesday held the 31 guilty of conspiring and setting fire to S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express near the Godhra railway station Feb 27, 2002. The incident triggered a communal frenzy with mass rioting in Gujarat killing over 1,000 people.

The court acquitted 63 others, including alleged mastermind Maulvi Saeed Umarji.

Prosecution counsel J.M. Panchal confirmed that they have asked for capital punishment but declined to reveal the submissions made before the court. He said the case was of murder and criminal conspiracy, and deserved the death penalty.

Lawyer I.M. Munshi told reporters that the defence has asked for leniency, saying the incident was a reaction to the “misbehaviour” of ‘kar sevaks’ (Hindu volunteers) in the train and cannot be termed a “rarest of rare” case.

The lawyers also argued the convicts should not be sent to the gallows considering their past, their family circumstances and the fact that they had spent nine years in jail during the trial.

Meanwhile, lawyer of Ibrahim Abdul Razak Abdul Sattar Samol alias Bhano, one of the 31 convicted in the case, moved an application before the court saying he was a minor at the time of the incident and his case should have been referred to the juvenile justice board.

The lawyer said that Bhano was arrested Sep 1, 2004 and the police record showed his age as 20 years old at the time. But the lawyer claimed that Bhano was a minor and the court should consider his case afresh.

The 31 men were held guilty of murder, attempt to murder, dacoity, robbery and arson.

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