Godhra: 31 guilty; key accused among 63 acquitted

A special fast track court on Tuesday found 31 accused guilty of involvement in the Godhra train burning case in which 59 people were burnt to death.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2011, 09:51 AM IST

Ahmedabad: 31 people were on Tuesday convicted and 63 others, including the main accused Maulvi
Umarji, were acquitted by a special court here in the 2002
Godhra train burning incident that left 59 people dead and
triggered violence in Gujarat that had claimed the lives of
over 1200 people, mainly Muslims.

The sentencing would be pronounced on February 25
after arguments on the quantum of punishment by the Special
Court that accepted the theory of conspiracy behind the
burning of the coach of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks
returning from Ayodhya.

The court acquitted prime accused Maulana Umarji while
other prominent accused Haji Billa and Rajjak Kurkur were
convicted.

"Special Court judge PR Patel has convicted 31
accused while acquitting 63 others," Public Prosecutor JM
Panchal said after the verdict inside the Sabarmati jail.

"On February 25, there will be a hearing on the point
of sentence, and after that quantum of punishment will be
pronounced," Panchal said.

"The conspiracy theory has been accepted by the
court," he said.

Scientific evidence, statement of witnesses,
circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record
formed the basis of the judgement.

The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail
here began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against
94 accused in the carnage, that had triggered widespread
communal riots in Gujarat.

The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy
and murder in burning of the S6 coach of the train on
February 27, 2002 near Godhra, about 125 km from here in which
59 people were killed.

"Petrol was brought and the train was made to stop.
Electricity was then cut and there was pouring of huge
quantity of petrol and thereafter it was set afire so far as
S6 coach is concerned," Panchal said replying to a query on
prosecution`s theory of conspiracy.

Asked whether he would demand death penalty for those
convicted in the case, he said, "What will be the stand of
prosecution I cannot disclose at this stage but on February
25, I will be making my humble submissions before the
honourable court as discharge of my official duty."

On whether the prosecution was satisfied by the
verdict, Panchal said, "There is no question of any
satisfaction. One has to respect the judicial verdict. There
cannot be a debate on the judicial verdict."

"Maulana (Umarje) has been acquitted because the judge
found that he is not guilty. The grounds on which he has been
acquitted can be said only after reading full text of the
judgement," Panchal said on the release of the prime
conspirator.

As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the
trial and over 1,500 documentary evidences were presented
before the court by the Gujarat police.

There were a total of 134 accused in the case, out of
which 14 were released due to lack of evidence, five were
juvenile, five died during proceedings of over nine years, 16
are absconding, and trial was conducted against 94 accused.

Of the 94, against whom the trial was conducted 80 are
in jail and 14 are out on bail.

Two different panels appointed to inquire into the
2002 case had given different views on the Godhra train
burning incident.

The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat
government to probe the carnage, had in the first part of the
report concluded that the fire in the S6 coach was not an
accident, but it was caused by throwing petrol inside it.

"The burning of the coach S6 was a pre-planned act.
In other words there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the
train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the `karsevaks`
travelling in it," the report submitted to the government in
September 2008 had said.

The one-man UC Banerjee Commission appointed by the
Railway Ministry under Lalu Prasad Yadav had said that fire
was "accidental".

PTI