Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines
New Delhi: A sessions court at the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad today pronounced death sentence to 11 persons and life term to 20 others for the Godhra train carnage, which triggered the 2002 Gujarat communal riots. The sentence was pronounced by Additional Sessions Judge PR Patel, who had on February 22 convicted 31 people of criminal conspiracy in the Sabarmati Express train burning case.
Terming the case as as “rarest of rare” Justice Patel awarded capital punishment to Bilal Ismail Abdul Majid Sujela alias Bilal Haji, Abdul Razak Mohammad Kurkur, Ramjani Binyamin Behra, Hasan Ahmed Charkha alias Lalu, Jabir Binyamin Behra, Mehboob Khalid Chanda, Salim alias Salman Yusuf Sattar Zarda, Siraj Mohammad Abdul Meda alias Bala, Irfan Abdul Majid Ganchi Kalandar alias Irfan Bhopo, Irfan Mhammad Hanifabdul Gani Pataliya and Mehbub Ahmed Yusuf Hasan alais Latiko.
“The court has sentenced 11 to death, 20 to life imprisonment. It has passed separate sentences for different offences like looting, firing. The accused have been fined as well,” said Rajendra Tiwari, the lawyers for the victims killed in the train burning incident.
The sentence can be appealed in the High Court within 90 days. The prosecution had sought death sentence for all the 31 convicts saying that it was a heinous act.
However, the advocate of riot victims Mukul Sinha called the sentencing “shocking.”
“This sentencing is shocking. There was no iota of evidence to prove the conspiracy. I think there was no evidence against any one of them. The death sentence to 11 is shocking, it’s disproportionate and unfair,” Sinha told CNN-IBN.
The court had accepted the prosecution’s contention that there was a conspiracy behind the incident and convicted 31 under various sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) like 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120B(criminal conspiracy).
They were convicted under IPC section 147, 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 323, 324,325,326 (causing hurt), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on religious grounds), various sections of the Indian Railways Act, Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act and Bombay Police Act.
The court had acquitted 63 others in the case including the key conspirator Maulvi Hussain Umarji.
The S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set on fire on February 27, 2002, killing 59 kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The train burning incident sparked off the Gujarat riots in which over 1,000 people were killed. The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail began in June 2009.
(Tarique Anwar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)