February 22, 2011 11:13:55 am
Thirty one people were convicted Tuesday and 63 others,including the main accused Maulvi Umarji,were acquitted by a special court here in the 2002 Godhra train burning incident that left 59 people dead and triggered violence in Gujarat which killed over 1,200 people,mainly Muslims.
The quantum of sentence would be pronounced on February 25 after arguments before the Special Court that accepted the conspiracy theory behind burning down coach S-6 the of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks. Most of them where Vishwa Hindu Parishad members returning from Ayodhya.
The court acquitted prime accused Maulana Umarji while other prominent accused Haji Billa and Rajjak Kurkur were convicted.
“Special Court judge P R Patel has convicted 31 accused while acquitting 63 others,” Public Prosecutor J M Panchal said after the verdict inside the Sabarmati jail.
“On February 25,there will be a hearing on the point of sentence,and after that the quantum of punishment will be pronounced,” Panchal said.
“The conspiracy theory has been accepted by the court,” he said.
Scientific evidence,statement of witnesses,circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record formed the basis of the judgement.
The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail here began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against the 94 accused in the carnage,that had triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat.
The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in burning of the S-6 coach of the train on February 27,2002 near Godhra,about 125 kilometres from here in which 59 people were killed.
“Petrol was brought… the train was made to stop. Electricity was cut and the huge quantity of petrol was poured in the train. Coach S-6 was then set afire,” Panchal said replying to a query on the prosecution’s theory of conspiracy.
Asked whether he would demand the death penalty for those convicted in the case,he said,”I cannot disclose at this stage the stand of the prosecution. But on February 25,I will be making my humble submissions before the honourable court.
On whether the prosecution was satisfied by the verdict,Panchal said,”There is no question of any satisfaction. One has to respect the judicial verdict. There cannot be a debate on the judicial verdict.”
“Maulana (Umarje) has been acquitted because the judge found him not guilty. The grounds on which he has been acquitted can be said only after reading the full text of the judgement,” Panchal said on the release of the prime conspirator.
As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the trial and over 1,500 documentary evidences were presented before the court by the Gujarat police.
There were a total of 134 accused in the case,out of which 14 were released due to lack of evidence,five were juvenile,five died during proceedings of over nine years,16 are absconding,and the trial was conducted against 94 accused.
Of the 94,against whom the trial was conducted,80 are in jail and 14 are out on bail.
Two different panels appointed to inquire into the 2002 case had given different views on the Godhra train burning incident.
The Nanavati Commission,appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage,had in the first part of the report concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach was not an accident,but it was caused by throwing petrol inside it.
“The burning of the coach S-6 was a preplanned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the ‘kar sevaks’ travelling in it,” the report submitted to the government in September 2008 had said.
The one-man U C Banerjee Commission appointed by the Railway Ministry under Lalu Prasad Yadav had said that fire was “accidental”.
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