August 28, 2018 3:51:26 am
A special trial court here on Monday sentenced two more accused — Farukh Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Batuk — to life imprisonment in the 2002 Sabarmati Express train burning case at Godhra railway station that led to communal riots in Gujarat.
Special judge H C Vora acquitted three others — Hussain Suleman Mohan, Kasam Bhamedi and Faruk Dhantiya. They were among the six arrested by different agencies between 2015 and 2016. Another accused, Sabir Abdul Gani Pataliya, had died during pendency of the trial.
Judge Vora pronounced the order after considering the deposition of 37 witnesses and evidence provided by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT at Sabarmati Central Jail where the trial took place.
With the verdict, a total of 33 people have been convicted in the case, while 67 others have been acquitted. Eight more accused are said to be absconding.
Among the two convicted on Monday, Farukh Bhana, in his 50s, was the sitting corporator of Polan-Bazar area of Godhra municipality in February 2002 when the train was set on fire, killing 59 people, and was on the run since then. It was alleged that on the night of February 26, 2002, Bhana and other accused held a meeting at Aman Guest House near the Godhra railway station as part of their conspiracy to set ablaze the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express. He was arrested by Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad in May 2016 from a toll plaza in Panchmahals where he had come to meet his family members.
Sheru Batuk, who has also been sentenced to life imprisonment, was convicted of conspiracy and being part of the mob. He was arrested by Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch in 2016 from Malegaon in Maharashtra.
Special Additional Public Prosecutor N N Prajapati said, “While Bhana was the mastermind of the attack, Batuk was actually leading the mob..”
SIT officials said that they will take the government’s permission to challenge the acquittals in the High Court.
On March 1, 2011, the special SIT court had convicted 31 people, out of whom 11 were given death sentence and 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment.
In October last year, the Gujarat High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to 11 convicts to life term.
All 31 convicts have moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s order.
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