M A I N   N E W S

Godhra train burning case
31 convicted, 63 acquitted
* Court accepts conspiracy theory
* Prime accused among those let off
* Sentence on Feb 25

Ahmedabad, February 22
Thirtyone persons were today convicted 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 persons dead and triggered violence in Gujarat that claimed the lives of over 1200 people.

The sentencing would be pronounced on February 25 after arguments on the quantum of punishment by the Special Court that accepted the theory of conspiracy behind the burning of the coach of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks 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 judgment.

The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail here began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 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 km from here, in which 59 people were killed.

“Petrol was brought and the train was made to stop. Electricity was then cut and huge quantity of petrol was poured and thereafter it was set afire so far as S-6 coach is concerned,” Panchal said, replying to a query on prosecution's theory of conspiracy.

Asked whether he would demand death penalty for those convicted in the case, he said: “What will be the stand of prosecution I cannot disclose at this stage but on February 25, I will be making my humble submissions before the honourable court as discharge of my official duty."

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 that he was not guilty. The grounds on which he has been acquitted can be said only after reading the full text of the judgment,” 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 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 one-man UC Banerjee Commission appointed by the Railway Ministry under Lalu Prasad Yadav had said that the fire was "accidental". — PTI





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