Ahmedabad: A special SIT court pronounced its verdict in connection with a 2002 post-Godhra riots case of Gulbarg Society in which 69 persons including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri were killed. 24 accused were convicted and 36 acquitted. Quantum of sentence will be delivered on June 6
While the charge under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC was upheld conspiracy charge under Section 120 B was dropped against all the accused.
Special Court Judge P B Desai also acquitted 36 others including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel. While the charge under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC was upheld conspiracy charge under Section 120 B was dropped against all the accused.
Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted today, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others including VHP leader Atul Vaidya have been convicted for lesser offences.
The court said that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case while dropping section 120 B of the IPC.
Reacting to the judement, Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, expressed disappointment over the verdict, saying all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property.
"I saw them doing so with my own eyes," she said, adding as a woman she does not have the courage to demand capital punishment but they should get stringent punishment.
Her son Tanvir Jafri said he would consult lawyers on how 36 others were acquitted before deciding their next strategy.
Tanvir expressed surprise how only 24 people were convicted when a mob of 400 were involved in the rioting.
He said it was a tough time for the family, neighbours and other residents of the society who had to approach the highest court for the legal fight.
Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and K G Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulberg Society was located, are among those acquitted.
The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by May 31. Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are behind bars, while others are out on bail.
Bipin Patel, who is acquitted in the case, is a sitting BJP corporator from Asarva seat. He was also corporator in 2002 when the massacre happened and won the election for fourth consecutive term last year.
During the trial, riots victim's lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulberg Society.
The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after Jafri fired several rounds at them.
Last week, the court had turned down pleas moved by two accused--Narayan Tank and Babu Rathod--to conduct narco analysis and brain mapping tests on them to prove their innocence. The court maintained that it was not required when the verdict was imminent.
During the trial, riots victim's lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulbarg Society.
The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds on them.
R K Raghavan, who headed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the 2002 Gujarat riots, today said he has "mixed feelings" on the Gulberg Society case verdict.
"I have a mixed feeling as some were convicted while others acquitted. I shall be able to comment more only after looking at the order," Raghavan, a former CBI director, said.
The Gulbarg Society case is 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, where in 58 'karsevaks' were killed.
- With inputs from Agencies
About the Gulbarg Society massacre
On 28 February 2002, a Hindu mob attacked the Gulbarg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad burning most of the houses and at least 35 including former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri. 31 others went missing after the incident, later presumed dead, bringing the total deaths to 69.
This file photograph taken on February 28, 2011, shows Suraiya Ankleshwaria looking on as she and others pay homage to those killed at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad. Pics/AFP
On June 8, 2006 Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri first made the complaint alleging that the police had not registered the FIRs against then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and 62 others including several ministers alleging a conspiracy to allow the massacre.
This file photograph taken on February 27, 2012, shows Zakia Jafri, wife of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri as she sits inside the remains of her former residence
It was at around 9 am that a mob shouting slogans gathered outside the Gulbarg Society. This shook the residents who took refuge in the home of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, but Jafri couldn't protect himself or the other residents of the society and was hacked to death and later burnt.
Muslim women read the Koran at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad on February 27, 2012, the tenth anniversary of the massacre
With Jafri, at least another 35 people were either hacked to death or burned alive.
Muslim survivors look at photographs of dead and missing persons at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad on February 27, 2012, the tenth anniversary of the massacre
Of the eighteen houses which were burnt, only one has been repaired. Although none of the families returned, some of them congregate each year on the anniversary of the event and offer prayers.
Twitterati react to the Gulbarg Society massacre verdict
#Gulbarg However you may try to arm-twist Judiciary, truth will ultimately prevail, and Modi's complicity in riots will be exposed— RKHURIA (@rkhuria) June 2, 2016
Bipin Patel, a sitting BJP corporator from the Asarwa area, was accused of being part of the mob. He has been acquitted. #Gulbarg— Mosiqi Acharya (@Mosiqi) June 2, 2016