More than a year since a special court convicted 24 accused and acquitted 36 people in 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case, the Supreme Court-appointed SIT is still waiting for the Gujarat government’s nod to move the high court for enhancement of sentence awarded to some convicts, as also to challenge acquittal of 14 accused people.
This emerged on Wednesday when a division bench of the high court was hearing a regular bail petition of Atul Vaidya, a former VHP leader who was sentenced to seven-year imprisonment by the special court on June 3 last year. Vaidya has moved the high court, seeking regular bail on the ground that there wasn’t much evidence against him, and that only one out of three witnesses had identified him.
Opposing the bail plea, special counsel for SIT R C Kodekar argued that there are “specific roles attributed to the petitioner by the witnesses, especially in killing one of the residents of the society, Salim Abubakar”.
Kodekar said that the special court had sentenced Vaidya to seven years in jail, but the SIT will challenge his conviction and seek enhancement as the petitioner has a role in murder (under IPC 302) and was part of illegal assembly (IPC 149). Together, they attract life imprisonment. He told the court, “They (SIT) are awaiting the state government’s response for moving high court”.
The SIT counsel also said, “The court should take into consideration the method and manner in which 69 people were killed. There were children, women and physically handicapped who were innocent. Their only crime was that they belonged to a different religion. Such persons should not be released since it will have severe impact on society at large.”
The court reserved its order and it is likely to be pronounced next week.
Almost three months after the special court pronounced the judgment, those convicted moved the high court, challenging their conviction. Their petitions have already been admitted. Several victims have also appealed against the acquittal of some of the accused.
A senior SIT official told The Indian Express, “We have been reminding the state government every month for the past one year. This is becoming embarrassing for us as the high court has been asking if we are filing appeal petitions at all. We can’t move the court unless we get the government’s approval. We are ready with the draft since long.”