The Gujarat High Court Monday changed the division bench hearing a set of petitions, including appeal for conviction and confirmation of death sentence to 11 persons, in Sabarmati Express train burning case. The case has been assigned to a new bench.
The move came after one of the death row convicts, Salim Yusuf Zarda, who is still untraceable after jumping parole, moved an application objecting to the previous bench of justices R R Tripathi and Sonia Gokani. Zarda, in his letter dated July 10, objected to Justice Gokani hearing the case, citing the ground that she had presided over the trial of the case as a special POTA judge between 2003 and 2008.
One of the orders states, “Registrar [Judicial] is directed to place communication dated July 10, 2014, addressed by Somnath M. Vatsa, advocate appearing for one of the accused Salim Yusuf Zarda, who has addressed a letter to him, before the the Chief Justice…” It further states, “Taking into consideration the contents thereof, the Registry is directed to place the matter before the Acting Chief Justice for passing necessary orders…”
In the last hearing on November 11, the bench had sent the matter before the acting Chief Justice V M Sahai to decide a new bench. On Monday, the case came up before the bench of Justices K S Jhaveri and K J Thaker. The new bench adjourned the matter till December 15.
In this case, 31 persons were convicted by the special court. Out of them, 11 were given death sentence and 20 others got life sentence in 2011. The court acquitted 63 persons from the charges.
The case saw a twist after Zarda jumped parole while he was on temporary bail for fixing his house in Godhra.