Godhra train carnage: HC spares the noose for 11 convicts

PTI New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2018

A policeman walks through the charred interiors of the Sabarmati Express. (File photo: Reuters)

The Gujarat High Court on Monday commuted to ‘rigorous life imprisonment’ the death sentence of 11 convicts, while upholding the life sentence of another 20 in the 2002 Godhra train burning case.

The court observed that the State government and the Railways had failed to maintain law and order, and directed them to pay a compensation of ₹10 lakh each to the kin of victims. Those injured would receive recompense in accordance with disability suffered.

Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express was torched on February 27, 2002 near the Godhra railway station, resulting in the death of 59 people, most of them ‘karsevaks’ returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

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

A Division Bench of Justices Anant S Dave and GR Udhwani said in Monday’s verdict 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 court also upheld the life sentence awarded by the special SIT court to 20 other convicts.

The Bench also said it regrets the delay in pronouncement of the judgment, as hearing on appeals had concluded much earlier.

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

The special SIT court had on March 1, 2011 convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others in the case. While 11 people were sentenced to death, 20 were awarded life imprisonment by the lower court.

The lower court had accepted the prosecution’s contention that there was a conspiracy behind the incident.

All the 31 were convicted under IPC sections related to murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.

Those acquitted included prime accused Maulana Umarji, then president of Godhra municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur in Uttar Pradesh.

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 sabotage.

Published on October 09, 2017

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