11 held guilty of murder, conspiracy charge dropped
Ahmedabad: After 14 long years, a special Gujarat sessions court yesterday convicted 24 people, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Atul Vaidya, in the sensational Gulberg massacre case in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive on February 28, 2002.
Family members wave to the convicts as they are taken away after the verdict by a special SIT court in Ahmedabad yesterday. Pics/PTI
Moreover, Special Sessions Court Judge PB Desai pronounced 36 of the 60 accused as ‘not guilty’. Sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel, the then police inspector of the area K G Erdaand former Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari were among those who were acquitted. The court also rejected the prosecution’s conspiracy charge in the case.
Of the 24 people convicted, the court found 11 persons guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and 13 others guilty of lesser crimes. The sentences will be pronounced on June 6.
An armed mob had set ablaze the entire Gulberg Housing Society in Ahmedabad’s Meghaninagar area, inhabited by members of the minority community, in broad daylight.
We will move the high court: Zakia
Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, yesterday said she was not satisfied with the verdict in the Gulberg Society massacre case and that many of the people acquitted by the special court were involved in the 2002 rioting. Jafri said she would approach the Gujarat High Court. “We will fight the case till our last breath. We, along with Teesta Setalvad, and a renowned lawyer from Delhi will continue to fight this case,” Jafri said.
Only ‘half justice’ done: Congress
The Congress party yesterday described the verdict as ‘half justice’. “It is half justice, not full justice. I say half justice because the main accused — a BJP corporator — has been let free. Why he is being let free remains to be studied, analysed. In all such cases, our experience has been that the masterminds somehow manage to get themselves free...and the foot soldiers, the people who take orders, are found guilty,” Jairam Ramesh told reporters.
Ahmedabad: For Varsha Patel, wife of BJP corporator Bipinchandra Patel, one of the 36 accused acquitted yesterday, God exists.
Varsha had taken a vow that she would walk 65 km from the Patel residence in Ahmedabad to Brahmani temple in Mansa if her husband walked free. Soon after Patel was pronounced ‘not guilty’, she embarked on her journey and completed it.
Varsha said, “He works like Narsi Mehta (Gujarati poet-saint). I always knew that he was innocent. I took a vow after he was named as one of the accused. The Goddess repaid my faith in her.”
Bipinchandra, housing committee chairperson of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corpo-ration, said, “I have complete faith in our judiciary and will fight for my friends as well. Even I had taken a vow of visiting Umiya Mata and Aasha Pura Mata temples in Unjha and will be fulfilling it soon.”
— Shailesh Nayak