Gujarat High Court commutes death sentences of 11: From incident to verdict, the important facts of 2002 Godhra train carnage
Following are the important facts of the Godhra train burning case, in which the Gujarat High Court is likely to pronounce its verdict. 59 people had died in the incident.
The Gujarat High Court pronounced its verdict in the 2002 Godhra train coach burning case on Monday. The High Court has commuted the death sentence awarded to 11 convicts. All 31 convicts in the case have now been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The verdict marks an important milestone in the case, which has seen several twists and turns over 15 years.
The court's judgment comes just months ahead of the elections in Gujarat, and could well find an echo in political campaigns there.
Following are the important facts of the case:
Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which mostly 'kar sevaks' returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was burnt on 27 February, 2002 at the Godhra station, triggering riots in the state. The incident left 59 people dead. The driver of the train, Raghunathrao Jadhav, was quoted as saying that the emergency chain of the train was pulled several times, as per The Times of India. He told the Nanavati Commission probing the incident that he sent his assistant Mukesh Pachauri to check the rear end of the train. Pachauri saw mobs on all sides, many of whom were wielding arms.
The report by the Forensic Science Laboratory, State of Gujarat, as quoted by Outlook had said that about 60 litres of a highly inflammable fluid to start the fire. Further, it stated that the fuel was poured by standing on the passage between the compartment and the bogey, rather than from outside. The report also stated that a large number of stones and shattered pieces of glass were seen inside the coach and that there was large scale stone-pelting on the coach from outside.
In the large-scale riots that followed across Gujarat, 790 Muslims and 253 Hindus were killed. Further, 250 people were said to have gone missing.
Soon after the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, the Gujarat government appointed the Nanavati Commission to investigate the incident. The commission got 24 extensions and submitted its final report 12 years after the incident in November 2014. However, it had submitted its report with respect to the fire in the Sabarmati Express in September 2008. In the report, the commission termed as 'reliable' the theory that a rumour spread about a Muslim girl was being forcibly taken away in the train. The report stated, "The Commission comes to the conclusion that burning of coach S/6 was a pre-planned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn coach S/6 of the Sabarmati Express train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the karsevaks travelling in that coach." The commission concluded that the coach was "set on fire by throwing petrol in it."
The trial court verdict
A special SIT court had on 1 March, 2011 convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 in the case. While 11 people were sentenced to death, 20 were given life in jail. All the 31 were convicted under IPC sections related to murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.
The 11 convicts sentenced to deaths are Abdul Razzak Kurkur, Ismail Suleja, Jabbir Benyamin Behra, Ramzani Binyamin Behra, Mehboob Hassan alias Latiko, Siraj Bala, Irfan Kalandar, Irfan Patadia, Hassan Lalu, Mehboob Chanda and Salim Zarda, as per a report in The Hindu.
Those acquitted included the prime accused, Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra Municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh.
With inputs from PTI
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