The Gujarat High Court on Friday granted regular bail to one of the convicts of the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre on the grounds that he had already spent a considerable amount of time in prison, and the court’s decision on his appeal seeking suspension of conviction seemed unlikely in the near future.
Convict Kailash Dhobi had moved the high court seeking suspension of execution of his sentence. He had been convicted of several offences and was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and unlawful assembly, by a special designated court constituted for speedy trial of riot cases, in June 2016. Dhobi was also sentenced to varying periods of imprisonment for other offences.
Referring to the sessions court judgment, advocate Kshitij Amin, who represented Dhobi, pointed out instances where witnesses had failed to identify Dhobi. He said that the witness accounts against Dhobi are “weak in nature, and hence the applicant (Dhobi) has a strong prima facie case”.
However, Public Prosecutor RC Kodekar contested this, telling the court that there seems to be no prima facie case where merits are made out to be in favour of the applicant. He also said that the witnesses who had named Dhobi initially when the offence took place, had also supported the prosecution’s case and identified Dhobi before the court.
Advocate Amin told the court that Dhobi had already undergone imprisonment for more than 15 years (15 years, 8 months and 10 days) and that Dhobi’s appeal is not likely to be heard in the near future. The public prosecutor acknowledged this.
The division bench of Justices Harsha Devnani and Vireshkumar Mayani took cognisance of Dhobi’s nearly 16-year long stay in jail. It also acknowledged the appeal moved in 2016 and that considering the volume of evidence, it was not likely to be heard in the near future. On these grounds, the court deemed it fit to grant him bail, thereby suspending his sentence until final hearing of his appeal.
The regular bail comes with a set of conditions, one of which is that Dhobi cannot leave the state without the court’s permission.
In June 2016, an Ahmedabad court convicted 24 people in the Gulberg massacre case. They challenged the conviction in the High Court in August 2016. The convicts added the state and the special investigating team, represented by advocate RC Kodekar, as respondent parties in the case.
Following this, kin of the victims of the 2002 Gulberg massacre – Saira Sandhi and Rupa Mody challenged the appeal of the 24 accused who were convicted under IPC section 302 (murder) to 304 (A) (Causing death by negligence) and from sections 305 (Abetment of suicide of child or insane person) to 311 (punishment for being a thug), along with the SIT and state government.