ADVERTISEMENT

Godhra train carnage: Court accepts conspiracy theory, convicts 31

Tight security at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad where a special court pronounced its verdict in the Godhra train carnage case on February 22, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Tight security at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad where a special court pronounced its verdict in the Godhra train carnage case on February 22, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Holding that a criminal conspiracy was responsible for the February 27, 2002 burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station in Gujarat, a special court here today convicted 31 accused persons and acquitted 63 others in the case for want of proper evidence.

Among those acquitted was Maulvi Sayed Umarvi, who was charged as the main conspirator.

Sessions Judge P R Patel, who delivered the judgement in the Sabarmati Central Jail, said the quantum of punishment would be announced on February 25.

The accused were convicted on charge of murder, conspiracy and destruction of railway property. They were convicted under sections 120 (B), 302, 307, 323, 324, 325, 326, 332, 395, 397, 436 and 153(A) of IPC and section 149 of Railway Act, according to public prosecutor J M Panchal.

Of the total 134 accused in the case, including five juveniles, charges against 13 had been dropped during trial. As many as 16 accused are still absconding and five died during trial.

As many as 59 people, mostly "kar sevaks" returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the fire that engulfed the S6 sleeper coach of the train just outside the Godhra station.

The incident had sparked off communal violence across the state, in which more than 1200 people, mainly from the minority community, were killed.

Tight security arrangements were made across Gujarat as a precautionary measure.

According to defence counsel A A Hasan, the court accepted the theory that a conspiracy was hatched at a guest house in Godhra.

The court also relied on the Forensic Science Laboratory report that the fire was not caused by an accident and that petrol was used in burning the train coach.

J M Panchal, special public prosecutor, speaking to media persons at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad on Tuesday after a special court pronounced its verdict in the Godhra train carnage case on February 22, 2011. UNI PHOTO
J M Panchal, special public prosecutor, speaking to media persons at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad on Tuesday after a special court pronounced its verdict in the Godhra train carnage case on February 22, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Those convicted were accused of purchasing petrol, then storing it at a guest house and using it in burning of the coach.

The court also took into account confessional statements by some accused including Javid Behra. It also considered the confessions under 164 CrPC by Ajay Baria, Ranjit Jodha, Sikandar and Prabhatsinh.

While acquitting 63 accused, the court accepted the defence's main plea that political vendetta was responsible for the arrest of some accused including Mohammad Kalota, who was the President of Godhra Municipality.

The court also accepted the defence argument that no proper identification parade was held after the arrests and there was possibility of mistaken identity in the case of some of the arrested.

In the case of Maulvi Syed Umar, who was acquitted by the court, the court accepted the defence plea that he was booked on the basis of a confession by Javid Behra, who gave it on a heresay statement.

The court also granted that such confession cannot be used against the Maulvi in the absence of substantial evidence.

Prominent convicts include Razak Kurkut, Sadik Badam, Hasan Charkha and Javid Behra whereas prominent among the acquitted include Maulvi Syed Umar, Mohammad Kalota, Siddik Hathila, Nannumiya Chaudhari and Mohammad Ansari. Ansari was the first person to be arrested in the case.

The convicted are: Salman Mir, Jabura Kankatta, Biryanee, Irfan Pada, Anwar Meda, Razak Kurkut, Siddik Badam, Mehaboob Popa, Ramzani Behra, Hasan Charkha, Javid Behra, Mehaboob Chanda, Shoeb Kalandar,

Shaukat Kataria, Siddik Barot, Salim Jarda, Abdul Sattar Dadi, Abdul Rafik Kamali, Yunus Ghadiali, Ebrahim Samol, Siraz Vali, Bilal Badam, Farukh Gaji, Irfan Kalandar, Ayub Patalia, Shaukat Badam,

Mohammad Badam, Mehaboob Hasan, Shaukat Biliya, Abdul Rehman Dantiya and Haji Bilal.

Initially, a charge sheet was filed invoking the Indian Penal Code (IPC)and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Central POTA Review Committee found no basis for invoking charges of terrorism against the accused. This order was upheld by the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court, too, did not interfere with the High Court order.

Accordingly, on June 25, 2009, the sessions court framed charges under the IPC. The examination of witnesses began on July 1, 2009.

The trial, held in the Sabarmati jail, was completed in September 2010. The Supreme Court lifted its stay on the pronouncement of verdict on October 26, 2010, facilitating the special judge to pronounce the verdict.

In September 2004, when Mr Lalu Prasad was Railway Minister, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government constituted a committee, headed by the former judge of the Supreme Court, U C Banerjee, to probe the causes of the fire in the Sabarmati Express.

In his report submitted in January 2005, Justice Banerjee said: "The blaze is an accident. There was no possibility of inflammable liquid being used. The fire originated in the coach itself, without external input."

However, the Justice Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Narendra Modi government to probe the sequence of events that led to the fire, concluded that the fire was not caused by any accident but because of the petrol thrown at it.

In its preliminary report submitted in September 2008, the Nanavati commission said: "The burning of the coach S6 was a pre-planned act. In other words, there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the Sabarmati Express coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the ‘kar sevaks' travelling in the coach."

It had said: "All the acts such as procurement of petrol, circulation of false rumour, stopping of the train and entry into coach S6 were in pursuance of the object of conspiracy. The conspiracy hatched by these persons appears part of a larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the administration."

NNN

© Copyright 2012 NetIndian. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetIndian content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of NetIndian Media Corporation. Write to info[AT]netindian[DOT]in for permission to use content. Read detailed Terms of Use.