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Indian Express News Service ||Posted: Wed Feb 22 2011, 04:22 hrs
The special court here pronounced 31 accused guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy in connection with the Sabarmati train carnage in Godhra, in which 59 men, women and children, mostly kar sevaks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, were burnt to death on February 27, 2002.
The attack, which the court ruled was an act stemming from a criminal conspiracy, triggered the subsequent communal riots in Gujarat, in which over 1,000 people were killed.
Special trial judge P R Patel acquitted 63 others who were chargesheeted. They include Maulvi Umarji, the prime accused. The pronouncement of the judgment started at around 11 am and lasted for half an hour.
The judgment was read out inside the high-security Sabarmati Central Jail today. The sentencing is scheduled for February 25. The minimum punishment the guilty could be given is life imprisonment; the maximum, death.
The court ruled that the fire in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express was started after a criminal conspiracy hatched by the convicts to kill the passengers inside. A total 94 persons faced trial under the Indian Penal Code, Indian Railways Act, Prevention of Damage to the Public Property Act and the Bombay Police Act.
1. Conspiracy Meeting held at Aman Guest House.
2. Collecting of Jihadists and 140 liters of petrol from nearby booth.
3. Hiding behind a local Guest House.
4. Pelting of stones on Sabarmati Express to stop it at Signal Faliya.
5. Entering into coach S-6, Cutting the Vestibules Canvas for dousing it by petrol from inside the train compartment. Left the compartment after locked it tightly.
6. Set fire throwing the burning rags, shouting “Allah ho Akbar”.
7. Fueled time to time so that burning of 59 Hindu Kaffirs are completed, Inshallah.
8. After setting a Dozak for the Hindu Kaffirs in Godhra through a heinous murder of Humanity, the Jehadists praised again : “Allah ho Akbar”.*
The accused were charged with pulling the chain of the train at Godhra station, pelting the train with stones near Signal Faliya, throwing burning rags and petrol inside the coach, cutting the canvas of the vestibule, forcibly entering the coach and dousing it with petrol from the inside.
They were also accused of collecting 140 litres of petrol on the night of February 26, 2002, and hiding it behind a local guest house, with the intention to attack the train the next day.
The charge was that they hatched the conspiracy out of communal grudge against a particular community.
The main convicts include Haji Bilal, a former member of the Godhra Nagarpalika and Abdul Razak Kurkur, owner of Aman Guest House. Besides Maulana Umarji, who was accused of instigating the others to set the train on fire, Mohammed Kalota, a former president of the Godhra Nagarpalika, was acquitted.
Special Public Prosecutor, Mr JM Panchal, said the motive was to target the kar sevaks who were involved in the Ayodhya movement. “Petrol was brought and the train made to stop. Electricity was then cut and there was pouring of huge quantity of petrol and thereafter it (coach S-6) was set afire,” he said.
On acquittal of Maulvi Umarji, who was projected as the prime conspirator, Mr Panchal said the court was not convinced with the evidence against him. Other key accused acquitted include Mohammad Hussain Kalota, then the president of Godhra Municipality, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh. The accused found guilty include Haji Bilal, Abdul Razak Kurkur, Jabir Behra, Salim Zarda and Mehbub Hasan.*
The trial was conducted inside Sabarmati Central Jail, as the state government had imposed Section 268 CrPC on the accused, restricting their mobility.
Special Public Prosecutor J M Panchal said the court had ordered the conviction of 31 accused on the basis of eyewitness accounts, testimony of railway employees, forensic evidence confirming the use of petrol, and circumstantial evidence.
Asked if he was satisfied, Panchal said, “There is no question of satisfaction… The court has given its verdict and we have to respect it.” Panchal declined to state whether the prosecution would demand capital punishment for the convicts.
Panchal was assisted by two Special Assistant Public Prosecutors, N N Prajapati and A Y Kogje. The prosecution examined 253 witnesses, around 20 of whom turned hostile. There were no defence witnesses.
Defence lawyers expressed satisfaction with the judgment. One of the chief counsel, A A Hasan said, “The 63 persons have been acquitted while accepting the defence arguments. Many of the accused were implicated in the case as part of political rivalry and that argument has been accepted by the court.”
The Times of India || February 22nd 2011
AHMEDABAD: Almost nine years since 59 passengers on the Sabarmati Express were killed at Godhra railway station — sparking off the Gujarat riots — a trial court on Tuesday convicted 31 people while letting off 63. ( Court blames 31 for S-6 fire, says no proof against 63 )
With Pota dropped, the court also held those convicted of rioting, arson, damaging public property and violating other railway laws. The original case had five accused below 18 years of age who were sent to a juvenile court. Five accused died during trial. ( Read: Godhra trial chronology )
Judge Patel appeared to have agreed with the larger part of the version given by investigating officer Noel Parmar who was member of the first special investigation team (SIT) set up by the Gujarat government. ( Read: No mastermind, but court upholds conspiracy theory )
One of the main reasons for the acquittals, say lawyers, were the conflicting versions of police investigations and the fact that the police randomly picked up at least 70 people while combing Godhra on the night of February 27, 2002 and later booked them under Pota. Among them was former president of Godhra municipality Mohammed Hussain Kalota who is now free.
The conviction was based on investigations by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team headed by ex-CBI chief RK Raghavan.