Godhra case: TV sting as evidence rejected



Ahmedabad: Gujarat high court on Friday dismissed a petition by one Salim Zarda, sentenced to death in 2002 Godhra train burning case, seeking additional evidence in the form of CDs of TV sting operation be brought on record.

A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Paresh Upadhayay, while disallowing the plea, said that it was too "premature" to consider the request made by Zarda.

Zarda, who has been awarded death sentence along with ten others in the Godhra train burning incident, has in his petition, sought examination of journalist Ashish Khetan, who executed the sting operation in 2007.

The court said that if Zarda raised the demand at the relevant time, when final hearing on the petition for criminal confirmation of the death sentence and his appeal against the trial court verdict begins, they might consider it.

Senior counsel Nitya Ramkrishnan and lawyer Somnath Vatsa, representing Zarda, had submitted during hearing on the petition that the apex court-appointed SIT, which had investigated the Godhra carnage case, has taken the CDs of the same sting operation as evidence in the Gulburg and Naroda Patiya riot case, also being probed by the same agency.

However, in the Godhra case, the SIT had not taken the same CD as evidence, they had said, adding that the trial court, which gave verdict on the Godhra train carnage, had erred by not calling Khetan as witness.

They argued that for once, Khetan should be called and then the investigating agency can decide whether his statement or his sting CD holds any value as evidence or not.

"How can not using the CD be decided without questioning him?" Ramkrishnan asked.

The SIT opposed calling of Khaitan as a witness, at the juncture, when the trial court has given its verdict in the case and now the matter is before the high court.

It further argued that the SIT had applied for the cross examination of Khaitan regarding his sting CD, however, it was not entertained by the trial court.

59 passengers, mainly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were burnt alive in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express near Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.

Following this, large scale communal violence had erupted in the state that resulted in over 1,000 deaths. A special court had, in February 2011, convicted 31, with death sentence to 11 and life imprisonment to 20 others, and acquitted 63.

PTI