A special designated court Thursday is likely to pronounce the verdict in the Gulberg Society massacre case involving the killing of 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, during the 2002 post-Godhra riots. The court will decide the fate of 62 accused in this case, which is one of the nine major rioting incidents investigated by the Supreme Court appointed-Special Investigation Team (SIT).
In view of the judgment, heavy security has been deployed inside and outside the court premises. A team of Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), Ahmedabad, will be responsible for security inside the court premises, while a dozen of policemen will guard the area where a large number of people are expected to assemble. According to officials, personal security of judge P B Desai has also been increased.
“Two companies of State Reserve Police have also been deployed at communally sensitive places in the city. Even at Gulberg Society, there will be dozens of policemen guarding the locality to thwart any untoward incident,” said a police officer. A meeting was also held between senior police officials and police commissioner Shivanand Jha, who was additional commissioner of police, Sector-1, in 2002 when the rioting took place.
The case has seen several ups and downs during the trial. P B Desai, who will be pronouncing the verdict, is the fourth judge who presided over the trial. The previous judges had concluded the hearing, but couldn’t pronounce the judgment due to Supreme Court’s stay and also superannuation. The current judge took over the trial in November 2014 and concluded the final arguments in September 2015.
In January 2014, the case saw another turn when some of the witnesses and former residents of the society lodged an FIR against Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, their son Tanvir, Salim Sandhi and Feroz Gulzar Mohammed Pathan, chairman and secretary of Gulberg Society, respectively. Both of them had lost five members of their families in the massacre.
The FIR was lodged by Saeed Khan Pathan and his sons Feroz and Imtiaz, (Imtiaz is one of the key eye-witnesses to Jafri’s killing) against the accused for “embezzling funds” collected in the name of the riot victims.
The case witnessed another twist in January this year when accused no-1, Kailash Lalchand Dhobi, jumped parole and didn’t return to jail. He wrote a letter to the Gujarat High Court that he will return only after the judgment. Dhobi, who has been languishing in jail since his arrest in 2002, remains absconding.
In April, another accused, Shivcharan Ramjilal Nath alias Jitendra alias Lallu, didn’t go back to Sabarmati Central Jail after his parole got over. He was arrested last month from Rajasthan.
One of the accused in the case is BJP corporator Bipin Patel from Asarva area where Gulberg Society is located. Another accused, Atul Vaidya, was a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). Police inspector K G Erda, who had lodged the first FIR in the case, too was later arraigned as an accused. Four other accused died during the trial.