August 20, 2016 3:34:21 am
The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has recommended capital punishment for 11 convicts who were awarded life imprisonment in the Gulberg Society massacre case by a special court on June 17 this year.
The SIT submitted its opinion to the state government last week, seeking the government’s nod for filing an appeal petition in Gujarat High Court for enhancing the sentence of those convicted, and challenging the acquittal of 14 people.
The special court had convicted 24 accused and acquitted 36 people in the case.
The SIT has not challenged the acquittal of retired deputy superintendent of police K G Erda, who was also acquitted for want of evidence.
On February 28, 2002, a day after 59 kar sevaks were burnt in the Godhra train carnage, a mob had broken into the compound of Gulberg Society. The mob killed 69 people, including former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri.
According to SIT, the 12 convicts awarded seven-year jail terms and one convict who got a 10-year prison sentence for lesser offences should have been given life imprisonment.
The court-appointed probe team has argued that since these 13 people were part of the mob and were found guilty of unlawful assembly and arson, among other charges, they should have been treated as “murderers”.
Sources in the SIT told The Indian Express that it will not challenge the acquittal of retired police officer Erda since he was wrongly involved in the case. Erda was the police inspector of Meghaninagar when the riots broke out at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002.
“We have sent our recommendation to the state government, which is technically the prosecuting agency and has to give us the nod to go ahead. After analysing the judgment, we have found that there is scope of enhancing sentences and challenging acquittal of at least 14 accused,” a member of the SIT said on condition of anonymity.
While pronouncing the sentence on June 17 this year, the special court had termed the Gulberg Society riots as “unfortunate” and the “darkest day in the civil society of Gujarat”.
Ahsan Jafri’s widow, Zakia, had filed a court complaint against the then chief minister Narendra Modi and others for orchestrating the riots. The SIT investigated her allegations following the Supreme Court’s direction and gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.
Zakia appealed against the clean chit in Gujarat High Court which is likely to resume hearing on her plea from August 30.
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