March 28, 2019 7:48:16 am
The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday disposed of an application filed by the victims of the Gulberg society massacre, seeking amendments to their criminal petition, which included compensation on a par with the kin of the victims of Sabarmati Express carnage in Godhra.
The court’s reasoning was based on its observation that as far as criminal appeals are concerned, it is not necessary to include every ground of argument in the petition, thereby allowing the said amendments to be argued by the petitioners during the final hearing.
The amendments sought addition of a few “grounds” and prayer of “compensation on (a) par with that claimed by the 59 victims of the train carnage.” They sought “that the applicants and other victims of this (Gulberg) offence are required to be suitably compensated in view of the judgment and order passed by the division bench of this court.”
The amendment sought the court to “direct the respondent State of Gujarat to pay adequate compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased and also appropriate compensation to the families of the injured in the interest of justice.”
Another amendment proposed by the petitioners to their plea was to include the ground that “despite the substantial evidence of conspiracy (120-B IPC) vis-a-vis the charge-sheeted accused, but (sic) (the court) has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the pleas of the eyewitnesses and survivors, including the appellants to arraign even more powerful accused from among the higher-up police hierarchy.”
It was observed that as far as criminal appeals are concerned, it is not necessary to include every ground of argument in the petition and thus, the court said that the petitioners can argue the said amendments at the time of the final hearing.
Notably, ahead of the 17th anniversary of the Godhra train carnage this year, the Gujarat government had announced it would pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of 52 victims (the number of victims identified out of the total 59) who were killed when Sabarmati Express was set on fire in 2002. The decision came nearly two years after the Gujarat High Court direction to pay the compensation, while delivering a judgment on October 9, 2017, on a petition appealing against the sentence given out by the trial court.
Citing this order, advocate Suhel Tirmizi, who is arguing for the petitioners, Saira Sandhi and Rupa Mody, said, “There 59 kar sevaks and their families suffered, here also 69 people suffered. Why should they not be compensated then?”
Meanwhile, in another petition by the Gulberg victims, the division bench granted an application filed by Sandhi and Mody, seeking paper books of the criminal appeal filed by them as well as the accused. The petitioners had mentioned that they would be unable to pay the fee of Rs 1,21,000 as sought by the Gujarat High Court registrar. It was argued by Tirmizi that the victims had lost everything and therefore cannot afford to spend the hefty amount. Taking cognisance, the court of Justices J B Pardiwala and A C Rao ordered that the paper books be provided for free by the registrar and further directed an amendment to the Gujarat High Court Rules to do so. The Gujarat High Court Rules had been framed in 1974 and an amendment in the law was suggested in 2009.
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