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  India   All India  10 Oct 2017  2002 Godhra train carnage: Gujarat HC commutes death to life for 11 convicts

2002 Godhra train carnage: Gujarat HC commutes death to life for 11 convicts

AGENCIES
Published : Oct 10, 2017, 3:39 am IST
Updated : Oct 10, 2017, 3:40 am IST

Gujarat HC also upheld life term for 20 other convicts and refused to alter the acquittal of 63 accused.

Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly 'kar sevaks' returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was burnt on February 27, 2002 at the Godhra station, triggering riots in the state. (Photo: PTI/File)
 Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly 'kar sevaks' returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was burnt on February 27, 2002 at the Godhra station, triggering riots in the state. (Photo: PTI/File)

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court on Monday commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts to rigorous life imprisonment, while upholding the life sentence of 20 others in the 2002 Godhra train burning case.

A division bench of Justices Anant S. Dave and G.R. Udhwani said that it was upholding the conviction of the 11 persons whom the trial court had sentenced to death, but commuting their punishment to “rigorous life imprisonment”.

The two-judge bench also rejected the appeals filed by the special investigation team (SIT) against the acquittal of 63 people, and its appeals seeking enhancement of sentences.

Those acquitted include Maulvi Umarji, who was dubbed by the Gujarat police as the “mastermind” of the carnage. A total of 94 people, all Muslims, had stood trial on charges of murder and conspiracy. All have consistently denied setting the train ablaze on February 27, 2002, and had appealed their conviction.

The high court on Monday also rejected their appeals. On March 1, 2011, a special trial court had convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 of setting ablaze a coach of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, at  station. Of the 31 convicts, 11 were sentenced to death and 20 were given life imprisonment. The court had accepted the prosecution’s contention that there was a conspiracy behind the incident.

While passing the judgment, the high court observed that the state government and railways had failed to maintain law and order, and directed them to pay Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of victims. The division bench also said that it regrets the delay in pronouncement of the judgment, as hearing on appeals had concluded much earlier.

Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express was torched on February 27, 2002, near the Godhra station, resulting in the death of 59 people, most of them “kar sevaks” returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

The incident triggered communal riots across Gujarat, in which around 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The Gujarat government and the special investigation team that probed the incident had sought confirmation from the Gujarat high court to the death sentence given to 11 by the trial court. The government had also demanded the maximum punishment for the 20 people given life imprisonment. Besides, it questioned the acquittal of 63 persons.

The kin of the fire victims had had also sought death for all accused persons.

The high court relied on the testimonies of injured witnesses, passengers, railway employees, Railway Protection Force personnel, two policemen from Godhra, the Gujarat railway police, experts from forensic laboratories and also the confessional statements.

The Justice Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, had concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was not an accident, but the coach had been set ablaze.

Tags: gujarat high court, sabarmati express, 2002 godhra train burning case, rigorous life imprisonment
Location: India, Gujarat, Ahmedabad