The Gulberg massacre trial began afresh on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court lifted the ban last week and directed that the hearing on the arguments be completed in three months. Five accused sought exemption from appearance, even as the special public prosecutor remained absent, annoying the special designated court which directed them to be present right on time from the next date.
Soon after the principal judge PB Desai, Ahmedabad City and Sessions court, presided over the court the defence lawyers submitted five different applications seeking exemption from appearance. The court, however, refused to entertain the applications and ordered them to be present before it on the next hearing.
“The court was annoyed after SIT lawyer failed to appear with the excuse that he was busy in the high court. The judge passed an order stating that the lawyer should be present in the next hearing by sharp 11 o’clock,” said lawyer SM Vohra who represents witnesses and victims in the case.
Desai is the fourth judge who is presiding over the case in which 69 persons including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri were burnt alive by the rioters on February 28, 2002 at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad. This is one of the nine cases being probed by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
This is the same incident in which Jafri’s widow Zakia had filed a case against the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others. The case was investigated by the SIT that gave clean chit to Modi in 2012 while SIT’s report was upheld by a metropolitan magistrate only last year. Zakia has filed a petition in the high court challenging the appeal.
Before coming to the main matter the court will hear the application filed by victims seeking arraignment of police officials including the then Ahmedabad police commissioner PC Pande, joint commissioner of police MK Tandon, deputy commissioner of police PB Gondia and the then assistant commissioner SS Chudasma in the case.
“The court directed everyone to be present before it on 27th November. First the court is likely to decide on the application filed by the victims who have sought arraigning several police officials as accused in the case,” said advocate Robin Mogera who represent several accused in the case. There are 64 accused in the case, out of who, 5 have already spent 12 years in jail who never got regular bails.