Godhra train carnage sentencing March 1 (Second Lead)

Friday, February 25, 2011

AHMEDABAD - All the 31 men convicted of razing a train coach 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.

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

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