INDIA: GUJARAT HC COMMUTES DEATH PENALTY FOR 11 CONVICTS TO LIFE IMPRISONMENT
October 9, 2017:
The Gujarat high court commuted the death penalty awarded by a lower court to 11 convicts in the 2002 Godhra train burning case to life imprisonment. (Sources: livemint.com, 09/10/2017)
The high court upheld the conviction of 20 other people who were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court which had in 2011 convicted the 31 people of murder and conspiracy.
The special court had acquitted 63 others due to lack of evidence, which notably included prime accused Maulana Umarji.
As many as 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were charred to death when a mob attacked a train and torched the S6 coach near Godhra railway station in February 2002. The incident triggered communal riots across Gujarat in which more than 1,000 persons were killed.
The Gujarat high court dismissed an appeal by the Gujarat government against the 63 people who were acquitted.
A number of appeals in front of a division bench in the high court had challenged the convictions and acquittals that were handed out in the case by the trial court. A Supreme Court-monitored special investigation team (SIT) had sought capital punishment for all those who were convicted in the high court.
SIT lawyers told the court that they would study the judgment before deciding whether to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the train burning, had in its report concluded that the fire was not an accident, but a conspiracy and that the coach was set ablaze by a mob.
Earlier this week, the Gujarat high court rejected a petition by former lawmaker Ehsan Jafri’s widow challenging the clean chit given by SIT in 2012 to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other top politicians and bureaucrats for the 2002 riots.
Petitioner Zakia Jafri’s husband, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among 69 people killed in the Gulbarg housing society in Ahmedabad during the rioting.