More than 14 years after the ghastly Gulberg massacre that killed 69 people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, 24 people were today convicted by a special court here which acquitted 36 others and dropped conspiracy charges against all the accused in one of the worst riots post-Godhra violence in Gujarat.
11 of the 24 accused were convicted for murder under Section 302 of the IPC by special judge P B Desai who convicted others for lesser offences. Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial.
Sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel was among the acquitted while VHP leader Atul Vaidya figures among the 13 convicted for lesser offences. K G Erda, the then police inspector of the area in which the Gulberg Society was located and former Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari were among those who were acquitted.
Dropping Section 120 B of the IPC, the court held that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case. The dropping of conspiracy charge could result in lesser sentencing in jail. The quantum of sentence will be announced on June 6.
The prosecution is likely to seek capital punishment for the 11 convicted for murder, while the lawyers of victims said that they will seek imprisonment till death for them.
The Jafri family–his widow Zakia and son Tanvir– expressed disappointment over the number of acquittals in the case and said they would consult lawyers whether to appeal against the order.
R K Raghavan, former CBI Director who had headed the Supreme Court-appointed SIT into the massacre, said he has “mixed feelings” on the verdict adding they would consult legal opinion on whether to appeal against the judgement.
The Gulberg Society massacre here on Feb 28, 2002 when Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister shook the nation when a mob of 400 people set about attacking the society in the heart of Ahmedabad and killed the residents including Jafri.
It was 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 in which 58 ‘kar sevaks’ going to Ayodhya were killed.
“We will seek capital punishment for 11 accused because the offence is barbaric and urge the court to consider it as the rarest of the rare case. 10-12 years jail will be sought for 13 others who have been found guilty of lesser offences,” Special Public Prosecutor R C Kodekar said after the verdict.
“The SIT had placed charges of section 120 (B) of the IPC that of pre-planned conspiracy but there was no cogent material evidence against the accused regarding conspiracy and so we could not go further on this. We go by the evidence and material, and not feelings,” SIT lawyer R C Kodekar said on dropping of the conspiracy charges.
Regarding the acquittal of 36 people, he said that they will take a call after they get a full copy of the judgement.
( Source – PTI )