Ahmedabad: A trial court in Ahmedabad on Thursday convicted 24 people of the 66 accused and acquitted 36 in the 2002 Gulberg society massacre case in which 69 persons were killed, including Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, and 31 persons were stated to be missing.
The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on June 6.
Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted today, 11 have been charged with murder, while other 13 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.
The 24 convicted includes VHP leader Atul Vaidya, BJP corporator Bipin Patel, Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhary and KG Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulberg Society was located, are among those acquitted.
Special Court Judge PB Desai acquitted 36 others including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel and also dropped the conspiracy charge (Section 120 B) against all the accused.
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 already 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 slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.
The Gulberg 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 on February 27, 2002 during which 58 'karsevaks' were killed.
The story so far:
This is the second largest communal riots case, other than Naroda Patiya massacre in which 126 persons lost their lives. The trial court in this case gave its verdict on August 29, 2012, convicting 32 accused including a minister in the Gujarat government. While 39 persons were burnt alive, 30 others, including Mr Jafri, went missing. However, after the legal waiting period of seven years, he and the other missing persons were presumed dead, Jafri's 75-year-old widow Zakia has been fighting the case in the hope of getting justice.
According to the SIT “unruly mobs” had begun torching and vandalising shops and property of the minority community on February 28, 2002. Around Gulberg society, a large mob of nearly 22,000 persons had gathered. They broke down a rear cement wall with an explosive substance, breached the gates and attacked two people before heading for Mr Jafri’s bungalow, the prosecution said. In a bid to escape from the mayhem, a large number of residents had taken shelter at Mr Jafri’s bungalow number 19.
“The mob first attacked a disabled person Anwar sitting outside the bungalow. They then went inside the bungalow, killing 69 people. There is direct evidence of injured persons and eyewitnesses, who have categorically identified the assailants and described how the carnage took place. There is evidence on record that Mr. Jafri was dragged by some persons, but after that there is no evidence.”
The Zakia Jafri Case which relates to 300 incidents all over Gujarat is at the pre prosecution stage after the SIT gave a clean chit to Mr. Narendra Modi and 61 others of orchestrating the communal riots. The SIT’s closure report has been accepted by the trial court and appeal against this order is pending in the Gujarat High Court....