Updated: June 26, 2015 6:00:19 am
A special trial court in Anand on Thursday acquitted three persons from one of the two 2002 Ode massacre cases reported from Ode town of the district on March 1, 2002. The court, presided over by special judge M S Bhatt, acquitted the three accused – Mohan alias Shashin Patel, Nikul Patel and Ankur Patel — while giving them benefit of doubt.
Three persons were killed in the massacre when hundreds of people attacked a house in Malav Bhagol locality of the town and set them on fire. The deceased include Ayesha Vohra, Noorie Gafur Vohra and Kadar Vohra. This is one of the nine 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra riots cases that the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) further probed.
Earlier, in April 2012, a special trial court had convicted 23 persons while acquitting 23 others in the same case. The three acquitted on Thursday had gone absconding after jumping their bail during the pendency of the trial in the case then. They were traced from Australia, Singapore and London subsequently by police. And, therefore, a separate subsequent trial was conducted against them.
In April 2014, Ankur Patel was extradited from Australia, following a request from the SIT. While Mohan Patel, who had a red corner notice issued against him, surrendered in August 2014 from Singapore, where he had been hiding, Nikul Patel was apprehended in August last year at Mumbai airport on his arrival from London. The families of the three accused remained huddled in the corridor of the Special Court until 4 pm on Thursday.
Nakul’s wife, Jigisha, termed the judgment as “relief and happiness” whereas his mother, Gita, said she wished her son could live his life free from the legal tangles. “He has spent many years of his life worrying about this false case against him. We are relieved now. He has got married just this year, after a long wait and I want him to start his life now,” Gita said, seated outside the courtroom and awaiting the completion of the formalities for the acquittal. Jigisha said their long impending wedding had been solemnised a few months earlier, when Nikul had sought interim bail to get married.
Mohan Patel’s father Ramesh refused to comment about the acquittal of his son, but said, “We are just glad it is over and this tag has been taken off from his name. We just want to be left alone.”
Those representing the victims, meanwhile, seemed dejected with the judgment. Three key witnesses in the case, who are also close relatives of the deceased — Idris, Fakir Mohammed and Firoz — were present in the court room when the judgment was pronounced. Idris, who has been extended police protection for the last six years, said, “I ran from pillar to post to get justice.
Although a part of me is ready to take the fight ahead to the High Court, I wonder if I made a mistake by not accepting bribes to turn hostile, instead.” “I cannot fathom what led to their acquittal. I am the key eye witness and I have identified them in court, even after all these years that they enjoyed their lives abroad,” he added. Idris’ father, Abdul, who had also sustained severe burn injuries in the same incident, had succumbed months later.
Fakir Mohammad, whose mother Noorie and Idris’ mother Ayesha were serving them tea when their house was set on fire by a mob, said, “There are three other accused in this case, who are also influential NRIs, currently hiding in a rich country abroad. The SIT officials are assuring us that they have been traced. But even if they are brought here, we feel they will also eventually be acquitted.
What is the point of fighting this case?” The three absconding accused in the case include Natu Patel, Samir Patel and Rakesh Patel.
Advocate Irshad Mansuri, who is representing the victims through Citizens for Justice and Peace, said, “We have already applied for the certified copy of the judgment. We are preparing for our case in the High Court as the evidence is very strong for conviction…The ground of benefit of doubt is not convincing for us.”
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