Even as the contentious issue of slapping POTA on the accused in the Sabarmati Express carnage case of February 27,2002 appear to have been resolved,little has changed on ground zero. The town will observe the seventh anniversary of the gory incident,which had left 59 people dead,on Friday.
Seventeen of the 18 conspirators,who were declared absconders by the Gujarat Police in 2002,continue to be at large,while the 18th man,Hussain Lalika,died a natural death.
Godhra Superintendent of police J R Mothalia,who had been involved in the train carnage probe from day one,shrugged off questions about the polices inability to track down the absconders.
He said he could not comment on the issue as the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) is re-investigating the case.
In 2002,they (police) had arrested whomever they wanted. Some were declared absconding conspirators. The Gujarat Police will,however,never even try to trace them because arresting them without strong grounds will only make the prosecution case weak, said Saeed Umarji,son of Hussain Ibrahim Umarji alias Maulana,the prime accused in the case,.
Maulana,along with 99 others,is presently lodged in the Sabarmati Central Jail.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was invoked in the case on March 2,2002.
After five days,the police added conspiracy charges [IPC section 120 (b) on March 7,2002.
POTA was revoked from the case on March 25,2002,but was slapped again on the 134 accused on February 5,2003.
Hussain Latika succumbed to a respiratory ailment.
The other 17 accused are: the then Godhra municipal councillor Farukh Bhana; businessman Ismail Chunga; Godhra resident Ibrahim Dhantiya; railway platform vendors Salim Badam aka Salim Panwala,Raffiq Bhatuk,Shaukat Lalu,Kasam Bhameri,Imran alias Sheru,Sikankar,Musthak Bhoba,Abdul Mitha,Kadir Patadiya,Hussain Mohan,Razzak Chakini,Imram Kalandar,Farukh Dhantiya and Yakoob Pataliya.
Some of these absconders reportedly have red-corner notices issued against them by Interpol,and many are believed to be holed up in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Case details in figures
Total no. of accused: 134
(Including five minors)
Absconding accused: 18
(Out of 18,one absconder Husen Latika is dead)
Arrested accused: 116
Chargesheeted accused: 103
Bailed out accused: 19
(Including three minors and two who have died)
Died in judicial custody: 3
* Fakhruddin Yusuf Muslman (35),died in 2003,
* Husen Mohammed Dhobi (60),died in 2008,
* Ilyas Giteli (40),died in Jan 2009)
In judicial custody: 79
Juvenile observation home: 2
Seven years of the Godhra carnage
* February 27,2002: 57 people,mostly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya,are charred to death in the S 6 coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station
* March 2003: Gujarat government sets up special POTA Court in Ahmedabad and Godhra carnage was renamed as POTA 1
* November 2003: Acting on an NHRC petition,Supreme Court stays the case trial
* May 2005: Supreme Court recommends for a Central POTA Review Committee (CPRC) to be formed
* May 2005: CPRC observes there was no evidence of the conspiracy alleged to have been hatched for the carnage and hence rules that POTA should not be invoked against the accused
* February 12,2009: Gujarat High Court upholds CPRC recommendations