Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, February 22, 2011
A special court in Ahmedabad will give its verdict in the 2002 Godhra train burning case on Tuesday. The court will pronounce its judgment on the role of 80 people accused of conspiring and burning the S-6
Fifty-nine people, mostly Kar Sewaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the incident. The incident had triggered horrendous communal riots in the state in which over 1200 people, mostly from the minority community, were killed and riots had lasted a few months.
The verdict will be pronounced at Ahmedabad's Sabarmati Central Jail, where the trial was held. Designated Judge PR Patel, who completed hearing the arguments of the prosecution and the defense in September last year, will pronounce judgment in the sensitive case on Tuesday.
Trial in the case began in June 2009 with the framing of the charges against the accused, who have been in Sabarmati jail since their arrest in 2002. All the accused in the case have been charged with criminal conspiracy and murder and rioting.
Initially, the accused were charged under anti-terror draconian law POTA but in 2005 central government appointed POTA review committee had recommended withdrawal of POTA on the ground of lack of adequate evidence against the accused. The Gujarat High Court and also the Supreme Court had upheld the review committee’s recommendation of dropping of POTA on the accused.
A mob of around 1,000 people had targeted the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra station in Gujarat in February 2002.
Immediately after the train burning incident by a mob, the Gujarat government had described it as a part of international conspiracy to create communal disturbances in the state. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had termed the incident as a pre-planned massacre against Hindus in the state.
However, initial investigations by the local police indicated that it could have been a spontaneous riot situation, but subsequently aw Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Gujarat government claimed that the act was pre-planned conspiracy to target kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya.
The SIT led by IPS officer Rakesh Asthana held that a Godhara-based cleric, Maulvi Umarji, had ordered four lieutenants to mobilise a mob at the station to target the S-6 bogey that was carrying Kar Sewaks.
*134 total accused in the case
*95 accused are being tried in the present trial
*80 accused are lodged in Sabarmati central jail ever since their arrest in 2002
*5 minors were also arrested by the Gujarat police for their alleged involvement in the act. They are being tried separately in juvenile court.
*5 accused have died after they were arrested
*13 accused have been discharged for lack of evidence against them in the offence.
*16 accused are still at large
*255 witnesses have been examined by the trial court during the course of trial