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SC drops POTA against Godhra train burning accused

October 21, 2008 14:45 IST

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that the charges under Prevention of Terrorism [Images] Act against 134 accused in the 2002 Godhra train burning incident in Gujarat shall be dropped and the trial can resume against all the accused under the provisions of the IPC.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari also directed the trial court to resume proceedings in the case.

The POTA review committee, appointed by the Union government, had recommended the dropping of charges under the act against those arrested for their alleged involvement in the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 kar sevaks were burnt alive in 2002, which sparked off communal riots in Gujarat.

The Narendra Modi [Images] government was, however, showing no intention of dropping POTA charges against the accused.

The apex court, while allowing petitions filed by Mahmadhusen Abdulrahim Kalota Sheikh and others, noted that after the recommendations of the Central POTA Review Committee to drop the charges under the act, the prosecution of the petitioners can not be continued under POTA and the trial for the offence alleged against them can be resumed under the provision of IPC.

The ruling of the Supreme Court will have impact nationwide as other state governments may also have to drop charges under POTA against those facing allegation of indulging in terrorist activities.

When assembly elections in six states are round the corner, this ruling is going to be seen by political parties as a major setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies who have been advocating stringent anti-terror laws like POTA and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act to check the menace of terrorism in the country.

Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance government are, however, bound to be delighted with the judgement of the apex court.

The petitioners had come to the Supreme Court against the Gujarat high court judgment dismissing their petition for quashing POTA charges.

The petitioners have been in jail since 2002 without trial and even their bail applications have not been considered.


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