The BJP government in Gujarat has denied permission to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file an appeal in the High Court seeking more stringent sentence in the Gulberg Society massacre case — one of the nine biggest cases of 2002 post-Godhra riots which the SIT had investigated and in which 69 people were killed, including MP Ahsan Jafri, by a mob.
The SIT had sought the government’s permission to move the High Court with the contention that the life imprisonment awarded to the 11 convicts by the trial court should be enhanced to death penalty, and the acquittal of the 14 other accused be challenged.
“We received one-page order of the state government last month denying us permission to move the High Court against the (trial court’s) judgment. The letter in Gujarati, which has been signed by an under secretary, mentions that the state government accepts the verdict and that there is no ground to file appeal in the High Court,” said a senior officer of the SIT on condition of anonymity.
“Legally, the state government is the prosecuting agency, and without its nod the SIT alone can not move the High Court. We will be submitting the state government’s decision in our progress report in Supreme Court later this month. Also, we have to inform the judges (of the High Court) that we will not be filing appeals,” the officer added. The SIT sends quarterly progress report to the apex court since it was formed in 2008.
When contacted, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said: “I am in Delhi today, and I will have to check about this decision… the case had bulky records because of which it consumed a lot of time. But I am not aware if the permission has been denied.”
The SIT had sent its opinion to the state government soon after the judgment was pronounced in June 2016 and sought permission to move the High Court. The SIT, in its opinion, had recommended death sentence for the 11 convicts. The SIT had also sought permission to file appeal petitions challenging acquittal of 14 people.
While the SIT was awaiting government’s response, twelve appeal petitions have already been filed, including by the 16 convicts who have challenged their sentences on various grounds. The convicts who have filed the appeals are Dharmesh Shukla, Atul Vaidya, Kapil Mishra, Dilip Parmar, Suresh Dhobi, Manish Jain, Mukesh Sankhla, Ambesh Jinger, Mangilal Jain (all sentenced to seven years of imprisonment), Bharat Rajput, Krishan Kumar, Jayesh Parmar, Kailash Dhobi, Raju Tiwari, Jayesh Jinger and Yogendra Shekhawat (all sentenced imprisonment for life).
In 2016, the special trial court had convicted 24 accused for killing 69 people at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots, while 36 others were acquitted. The court had found that the mob which had surrounded the society was not “really interested in causing deaths” but turned murderous after former MP Ahsan Jafri opened fire at them. Jafri was among those killed in the attack.