The Gujarat HC on Monday commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts to life imprisonment in the 2002 Godhra train carnage case. It has, however, upheld the life sentence to 20 other convicts.
The court also observed that the State had failed to maintain law and order. It directed the State to pay Rs 10 lakh to the families of the 59 victims, mostly kar sevaks, killed in the incident.
A total of 94 people, all Muslims, had stood trial on charges of murder and conspiracy. In 2011, a court acquitted 63 of them. The High Court today has refused to change that verdict. Those acquitted include Maulvi Umarji, accused of being the mastermind behind the fire.
31 people were convicted of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy. The death sentence for 11 of them has today been changed to life imprisonment. The others remain sentenced to life in jail.
The special court’s verdict was challenged by the state government and the convicts before the Gujarat High Court on April 6, 2011. The state had appealed for the confirmation of the special court order, whereas convicts had pleaded for quashing of the convictions.
The matter was listed before the division bench of justice AS Dave and justice GR Udhwani.
Submission on the appeal began on March 5, 2014 and was argued for over a year. On May 5, 2015, after submission of the all parties concerned concluded, the division bench reserved the order.
Sabarmati Express was late on February 27, 2002. According to the prosecution’s case, as per pre-planned conspiracy, the chain was pulled just outside the railway station and mob armed with lethal weapon and carrying petrol attacked the train.
They pelted stone and locked the doors of the S6 coach from outside. They poured petrol inside the coach and set it on fire. 59 passengers in the coach died after suffering severe burn injuries and suffocation.
According to police investigation, Aman Guest house owner Abdul Razak Kurkur had procured 60 litre patrol from a fuel pump on February 26.
He had hatched the conspiracy to attack the Sabarmati Express train at his guest house along with Bilal Hussain Kalota.
The other accused according to the police investigation was Maulana Umarji.
The probe said that on the morning of February 27, he had appealed people from minority community using the mosque loud speaker to gather and rush to railway station.
Interestingly, the trial court has acquitted him. After acquittal he died due to old age.
However, Kurkur and Kalota with 29 others were convicted for hatching conspiracy and for murder.
The special court’s additional sessions judge PR Patel while accepting prosecution theory of pre-planned, had passed verdict running in 850 pages in 2011.
The first part of judgment of conviction was announced on February 22 and quantum of punishment on February 25.