Twenty-one people were sentenced to life by a special court on Monday after they were held guilty of attempt to murder and arson in a post-Godhra riots case in which a frenzied mob killed 11 members of a single family including four children and five women.
The more serious charges of murder (section 302 IPC) and criminal conspiracy (120(B) against the 21 people were, however, dropped by special judge S C Srivastava in connection with the Deepda Darwaza riots in Mehsana district in Gujarat in 2002.
A former police inspector of Visnagar town M K Patel, who was held guilty of dereliction of duty, was given a one-year jail term by the court which acquitted 61 others. Former Bharatiya Janata Party member of Legislative Assembly Prahlad Gosa and his party colleague and ex-municipal president Dayabhai Patel were among those acquitted.
Deepda Darwaja is one of the nine cases, including the Godhra train burning case, that was probed by the Special Investigation Team following the Supreme Court's order. The attack took place in Deepda Darwaza area of Visnagar town in Mehsana district on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train carnage.
The court also awarded two years imprisonment to six of the accused for rioting and the sentence will run concurrently with the life term. Those convicted have also been fined between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000, while the former police inspector has been fined Rs 150.
Unhappy over the quantum of sentence awarded to the guilty and acquittal of others, the victims' family decided to go in appeal against the judgment.
"I have lost my family members in the incident and I am not satisfied with the fact that murder charges have been dropped against all of them as I had seen them killed in front of my eyes. I am going to challenge in front of higher forum," said Yousuf Khan Pathan, who lost his two daughters and other relatives in the incident.
During the arguments on quantum of sentence, special public prosecutor Mukesh Bhrambhatt termed the crime as "heinous", with women and children having been slaughtered, and sought maximum punishment for the guilty.