Godhra train carnage: 11 get death, 20 to serve life term
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 02, 2011, 00:23
Ahmedabad: Nine years after the Godhra train carnage, 11 people were on Tuesday sentenced to death and 20 awarded life imprisonment by a special court here for the 2002 incident that left 59 'karsevaks' dead and triggered communal riots in Gujarat killing over 1200 people, mainly Muslims.

Terming the incident as "rarest of the rare", special judge PR Patel awarded death sentence to 11 of the 31 convicts and ordered they be "hanged by the neck till dead".

This is perhaps the first case in the country in which 11 people have been awarded capital punishment, special public prosecutor JM Panchal said after the court pronounced the punishment inside Sabarmati Jail. The death penalty will have to be confirmed by the high court.

The court while sentencing 20 others to life imprisonment said, "The sentence of imprisonment shall run concurrently... The accused shall be entitled to benefit of set-off, of the period of their detention as an undertrial prisoner during the investigation and trial."

The court also imposed a fine of Rs 17,000 on each of the 31 convicts under various IPC sections.

On February 22, the court had convicted 31 people while accepting the prosecution's contention that there was a conspiracy behind the train burning incident in which 59 'karsevaks' returning from Ayodhya were killed in February 2002 and acquitted 63 other accused in the case.

All the 31 men were convicted under various IPC sections like 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

Besides, they were also convicted under IPC sections 147, 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly) 323, 324, 325, 326 (causing hurt), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds), various provisions of the Indian Railways Act, Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act and Bombay Police Act.

"The court looking into their active role in the conspiracy and setting afire S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express train near Godhra railway station (on February 27, 2002), gave death penalty to 11 people," Panchal said.

Those awarded capital punishment are Bilal Ismail Abdul Majid Sujela alias Bilal Haji, Abdul Razak Mohammad Kurkur, Ramjani Binyamin Behra, Hasan Ahmed Charkha alias Lalu, Jabir Binyamin Behra, Mehboob Khalid Chanda, Salim alias Salman Yusuf Sattar Zarda, Siraj Mohammad Abdul Meda alias Bala, Irfan Abdul Majid Ganchi Kalandar, Irfan Mohammad Hanif abdul Gani Pataliya and Mehbub Ahmed Yusuf Hasan alias Latiko.

Those acquitted included the prime accused Maulana Umarji and Mohammad Hussain Kalota, who was president of the Godhra Municipality at that time, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh.

Panchal said the prosecution has not received the copy of the judgement containing reasons for the punishment meted out and, therefore, he could not comment on the specific role and the differentiating factors due to which the 11 were given death and others life imprisonment.

Defence counsel I M Munshi said he was not happy with the verdict and would appeal in the high court.

"It (the punishment) is very difficult to swallow. Till we get the copy of the judgement, we cannot comment much," Munshi said.

"We will definitely appeal against the verdict in the high court. Till the high court confirms the judgement, it cannot be implemented," he said.

Explaining his disagreement with the judgement, Munshi said, "The court has not believed the first theory which said that the inflammable substance was poured from outside.

"The court has agreed to the second theory that the accused persons had entered the coach by cutting the vestibule between the S-6 and S-7 coaches, opened the sliding door and poured petrol in it."

He said the case of conspiracy was made almost four months after the incident and the statements on which the court seemed to have relied were recorded months after the incident.

"Statement of witness Sikander was recorded after one and half years while confessional statement of Jabbir Behra was also recorded after considerable delay," he said.

The prosecution failed to explain the delay in recording statements of key witnesses, Munshi said.

On February 22, the court had accepted the theory of criminal conspiracy behind the burning of the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya based on scientific evidence, statement of witnesses and circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record.

Out of the 94 accused tried, the court found 31 guilty of criminal conspiracy and murder, while 63 others were acquitted of all charges.

The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, had concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach was not an accident, but it was caused by throwing petrol inside it.

On the other hand, the one-man UC Banerjee Commission appointed by the Railway Ministry under Lalu Prasad had said that fire was "accidental".


First Published: Wednesday, March 02, 2011, 00:23

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