A special SIT court is likely to pronounce the quantum of sentence for the 24 convicted in the Gulbarg Society massacre today, in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The prosecution had sought nothing less than death sentence or jail term till death for all the convicts, while the defence lawyers had contested it saying that the incident was spontaneous and there were enough provocations for it.
On 2 June, Special Court Judge PB Desai had convicted 24 of the 66 accused, including a VHP leader, in the Gulbarg society massacre, which left 69 people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri dead.
Of the total 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others, including VHP leader Atul Vaid, have been convicted for lesser offences.
While pronouncing the judgment, the court had said there was no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case and dropped charges under section 120B of the IPC. Those acquitted include sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel, the then police inspector of the area under which the Gulbarg Society was located, KG Erda, and former Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari.
The hearing on quantum of sentence took place on Monday and is likely to continue today, with the lawyers for prosecution, victims and convicts presenting their submission before the court. Quantum of sentence will be pronounced after conclusion of their submissions.
During arguments over the quantum of sentence on Monday, public prosecutor representing the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), RC Kodekar, had sought nothing less than death sentence or jail term till death for all 24 convicts.
He said all 24 convicts were found guilty of offence under section 149 of the IPC and therefore required to be treated on par when the sentence is pronounced.
Section 149 states that "every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence."
"The manner of crime was cruel, barbaric and inhuman. Victim's bodies were roasted alive in the crime for which there was no provocation, much less in case of women and children who were defenceless," Kodekar had told the court.
A lawyer for the victims, SM Vora, also sought maximum punishment for the accused and argued that sentence for each offence should not run concurrently so that they spend their entire life in jail.
A defence lawyer, however, refuted the demand of capital or maximum punishment in his arguments saying that the incident was spontaneous and there were enough provocations for it.
"Since the conspiracy has not been established, asking the court for capital punishment on partially relied evidence is not appropriate," lawyer for the convicts Abhay Bharadwaj told the court.
The Gulbarg Society case shook the nation when a mob of 400 people attacked the Gulbarg society in the heart of Ahmedabad and killed the residents, including former MP Jafri, during riots that ensued after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express in which 'karsevaks' were travelling, was burnt near Godhra train station on 27 February, 2002 in which 58 people died.
It was one of the nine cases of the Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.
After the judgment, Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia Jafri had expressed disappointment over the verdict, saying all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property. Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are already behind bars, while others are out on bail.
With inputs from agencies