A special trial court here yesterday acquitted 23 people and convicted a similar number for the massacre of 23 people in Ode village of Anand district during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A total of 47 people were accused in the case. One of them died during the trial. This is the third riots case — after the Godhra train carnage and Sardarpura massacre — in which the special trial court has pronounced its judgement. Trials in the case had started end of 2009 and were on the verge of completion when the then judge hearing the case resigned in May 2011 citing personal reasons.
The verdict on Monday was given by district and sessions court judge Poonam Singh. The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence later.
The accused were convicted on charge of conspiracy, making it the first post-Godhra riots case, investigated by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), where the court has accepted the conspiracy theory.
The state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hailed the verdict, calling it victory for the people of Gujarat. “It is a victory of the people of Gujarat and a slap on the face of those who say justice cannot be done in Gujarat,” said BJP leader Balbir Punj. “This verdict proves justice will be done to those affected. Cases of this magnitude take time before the final cases are out. The Gujarat cases are no different,” said Yatin, another BJP leader, to a TV channel.
On the other hand, the civil society group Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), which has been supporting the riot victims demanded relocation for the witnesses and families. “The CJP appeals to the state government and the administration to abide by its constitutional mandate and ensure genuine rehabilitation and reparation of the survivors of the Ode massacre,” said the group in a statement issued here.
The Ode massacre case relates to March 1, 2002 when soon after the Godhra train carnage, rioters set fire to a building, killing 23 Muslims trapped inside in Pirwali Bhagol area of Ode.