The Gujarat High Court on Monday sentenced seven persons, guilty of killing three Muslims during 2002 post-Godhra riots, to life imprisonment. Of them, three had been acquitted by the trial court.
The division bench of justices Harsha Devani and Biren Vaishnav pronounced the quantum of sentence while awarding them life imprisonment. Out of seven accused three had been acquitted by a trial court in 2011 while four others were convicted for lesser offences such as attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing hurts with sharp weapon. The division bench enhanced their sentences and found then guilty of murder among other charges.
The seven are Satabhai alias Haider Gela Bharwad, Naranbhai Samantbhai Bharwad, Udaji Ranchhodbhai Thakor, Valabhai Gelabhai Bharwad, Viththal alias Kuchiyo Moti Bharwad, Mulabhai Gelabhai Bharwad and Merabhai Gelabhai Bharwad.
The bench also confirmed sentencing of two others, Bhopa Bharwad and Bachu Thakor, to life imprisonment. With this, nine of the 10 accused have been given life imprisonment in this case.
The case saw several ups and downs during the trial, with crucial witnesses turning hostile. One witness, Dostmohammed Suleman Bhatti, had moved the trial court for further investigation. The plea rejected, Bhatti had moved the High Court in 2010. The HC had directed the then Ahmedabad SP Sandeep Singh to investigate the case further. During the trial, Bhatti also turned hostile, along with four others.
On February 28, 2002, a mob of around 40, armed with sharp weapons, had attacked Muslim residents near Valana railway crossing. One of the witnesses had learnt of a fire at his farm near Valana village and had rushed, along with others, to douse the flames when they saw some people trying to demolish a dargah. As they tried to prevent it, the mob turned on them. Two people were killed on the spot, and another succumbed to injuries at VS Hospital in Ahmedabad.