Gujarat court verdict on Godhra
A Gujarat court on Wednesday created history by sending the most people to prison for life in a single case. The special court adjudicating 2002 riot cases convicted 31 people for the carnage in Sardarpura in north Gujarat and sentenced them to life imprisonment the same day. Thirty-three people were killed in the violence for which 42 of the 73 accused were acquitted by judge S C Srivastava. The judge, however, refused to accept the prosecution argument that the accused had hatched a conspiracy to kill the victims. This meant the violence, in her opinion, was a spontaneous reaction by the villagers. The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team had said that it was a pre-planned conspiracy where a mob had gathered near a temple in the village before attacking the Muslim victims. It was also alleged that trishuls (tridents) were distributed to the mob. The violence took place on the night of March 1, 2002, when a mob torched a house in which terrified Muslims had taken shelter. Among the 33 killed were five men, 17 women, eight boys and three girls. The court ordered all the convicts to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation under section 257 of the Criminal Procedure Code to the victims’ families. It imposed an additional penalty of Rs 21,700 on the accused, holding them guilty of murder, unlawful assembly, attempt to murder and arson. The judge said she had sentenced the accused to life because the SIT could not attribute any specific act to particular accused in the case. The court acquitted 11 people for lack of evidence while 31 others got the benefit of doubt and were let off. After the incident, the local cops had arrested 55 people. In 2003, the SC had stayed the proceedings and probe in the case along with eight other sensitive 2002 cases. It then appointed the SIT, which apprehended another 21 accused. While two died in jail, another was found to be a juvenile and released.