Fourteen years are not long enough for the victims of Gulbarg Housing Society massacre to get closure. On 2 June, a special SIT court had convicted 24 of the 66 accused in the case. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others have been convicted for lesser offences. Pronouncement on the quantum of punishment in the case was expected on Monday, however, the hearing has now been adjourned till 9 June.
Gulbarga society massacre case: Hearing on quantum of punishment for the 24 convicts adjourned to June 9
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Special Court Judge PB Desai had acquitted 36 others, including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel and also dropped the conspiracy charge (120 B) against all the accused in the 2 June verdict. Of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial and nine are already in jail. The court also said that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case, while dropping section 120 B of the IPC.
Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and K G Erda, who was the police inspector of the area in which Gulbarg Society was located, are among those acquitted, while VHP leader Atul Vaid is among the 24 convicted.
Arguing the brutal nature of the crime, the prosecution on Monday sought capital punishment for the 11 convicted for murder. The defense lawyers on the hand said that the Supreme Court says death penalty can only be granted when there is total certainty and the prosecution's argument is based on partial evidence, reported CNN-News18.
Bipin Patel, who is acquitted in the case, is a sitting BJP corporator from Asarva seat. He was also corporator in 2002 when the massacre took place and won the election for fourth consecutive term last year.
During the trial, the victim's lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy to kill minority community members of the Gulbarg Society. The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.
Zakia Jafri, who has been fighting for justice for her late husband MP Ehsan Jafri, had expressed dissatisfaction over the verdict that was pronounced on 2 June.
"No, I am not satisfied with the verdict. I did not like it. All should have been given punishment for what they did and what they did not. I know it all and as I have seen the massacre. I expected all to be convicted...how they killed people, how they made them homeless, I saw it myself," Zakia said.
"I can't dare to ask for capital punishment, but maximum punishment should be given. They should be given life imprisonment so they could know the pain of staying away from their family and children," she said.
"My fight should have stopped but looking at the judgement the fight will continue," she said.
After the 2 June verdict, Ehsan Jafri's son Tanvir raised questions on acquittal of 36 people. "It was a big society with 15-20 bungalows and 10 apartments with 400-500 occupants. So how can 24 people loot and burn the entire society for 24 hours and kill so many people in such a brutal manner. So that way it looks very odd," Jafri said.
Former CBI Director RK Raghavan, who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe cases including the Gulbarg Society massacre, had said that he has mixed feelings over the verdict.
"We did our best with all the facts before the court. It refused to buy our story. The court has believed us partly by not convicting all the accused. It shows the mettle of the Indian judiciary. They just want the investigating officer to place all the facts. And it is for the court to make a decision," the ex-SIT chief said.
With inputs from agencies