24, including VHP leader, convicted in 2002 Gujarat riots case

AHMEDABAD: A special SIT court here on Thursday convicted 24 of the 66 accused, including a VHP leader, in the 2002 post-Godhra Gulberg society massacre, which left 69 people, including former Congress MP Eshan Jafri, dead. The quantum of sentence for those convicted in the case will be delivered on June 6.

24, including VHP leader, convicted in 2002 Gujarat riots case

A police van transports some of those convicted in connection with a riot in Gujarat in 2002, outside a court after the ruling in Ahmedabad on June 2, 2016. Reuters

rchopra@tribunemail.com

Ahmedabad, June 2

A special SIT court here on Thursday convicted 24 of the 66 accused, including a VHP leader, in the 2002 post-Godhra Gulberg society massacre, which left 69 people, including former Congress MP Eshan Jafri, dead.

Special Court Judge PB Desai also acquitted 36 others, including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel, and also dropped the conspiracy charge (Section 120-B) against all the accused.

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Of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others have been convicted for lesser offences.

The court said there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case, while dropping section 120-B of the IPC. The quantum of sentence for those convicted in the case will be delivered on June 6.

The 24 convicted include VHP leader Atul Vaidya. Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and KG Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulberg Society was located, are among those acquitted.

The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by May 31.

Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are already behind bars, while others are out on bail.

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 happened and won the election for the fourth consecutive term last year.

During the trial, riot victims’ lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulberg Society.

The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of the prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.

The Gulberg Society case is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.

The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station on February 27, 2002 during which 58 ‘karsevaks’ were killed.

Reacting to the judgment, Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, expressed disappointment over the verdict, saying all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property.

“I saw them doing so with my own eyes,” she said, adding that as a woman she did not have the courage to demand capital punishment but they should get stringent punishment. Her son Tanvir Jafri said he would consult lawyers on how 36 others were acquitted before deciding their next strategy.

Tanvir expressed surprise how only 24 people were convicted when a mob of 400 were involved in the rioting. He said it was a tough time for the family, neighbours and other residents of the society who had to approach the highest court for the legal fight. PTI

      

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