CONFIRMING THE conviction of two accused held guilty of murder in a 2002 post-Godhra riot case, the Gujarat High Court on Monday found seven others guilty of murder in the same case. Of them, three had been acquitted by the trial court, and the four others were held guilty of lesser offences.
The case relates to the killing of three members from the minority community in Viramgam on February 28, 2002, when a mob had turned violent following the Godhra train carnage.
Justices Harsha Devani and Biren Vaishnav ruled that four convicts held guilty of minor offences (attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, voluntarily causing hurts with sharp weapons) by the trial court should be punished under IPC Section 302 (murder), to be read with Section 149 (unlawful assembly), among other charges. Three others acquitted by the trial court have also been found responsible for 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.
Notices have been issued to them to be present before the court on July 25, when the quantum of sentence is decided. The two others whose sentencing were confirmed by the HC are Bhopa Bharwad and Bachu Thakor. With this, nine of the 10 accused stand convicted.
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 . “The two remaining witnesses, who are brothers, stood firm on their statements,” said a lawyer who represented the case in the trial court, which pronounced its verdict in 2011.
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.