A Special Investigation Team court on Monday said that it will pronounce the quantum of sentence on Friday for 24 convicts of the Gulberg Society massacre in which 69 people, including former Congress member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, were killed.
The court of Special Judge P B Desai in Ahmedabad said that the quantum of sentence will be declared on June 17, after the prosecution submitted a list of jail terms spent by all 24 convicts, as asked by the court.
Earlier, the court had on June 2 convicted 11 persons for murder and other offences, while 13 others, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, were charged with lesser offences. It had also acquitted 36 others in the case.
The court had concluded the arguments on quantum of sentence on Friday last week after taking into consideration submissions made by both the prosecution and defence lawyers as well as the lawyer of the victims.
During the arguments, special public prosecutor and counsel for Supreme Court appointed SIT R C Kodekar had asked the court for nothing less than death sentence or jail term till death for all 24 convicts.
He said all 24 convicts were found guilty of offence under section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, and therefore required to be treated at par when the sentence is pronounced.
Section 149 states that ‘every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the same assembly is guilty of that offence’.
“The manner of crime was cruel, barbaric and inhuman. Victims’ bodies were roasted alive, in the crime for which there was no provocation, much less in case of women and children who were defenceless,” Kodekar had told the court.
He also informed the court during the course of hearing that those involved in the ghastly act of killing the residents of Gulberg were either known to them or their neighbours, and not terrorists from other country.
Lawyer for the victims, S M Vora, also sought maximum punishment for the accused and argued that sentence for each offence should not run concurrently so that they spend their entire life in jail.
However, lawyer of the accused, Abhay Bhardwaj, refuted the demand for capital punishment or maximum punishment in his arguments, saying that the incident was spontaneous and there were enough provocations for it.
“Since the conspiracy has not been established, asking the court for capital punishment on partially relied evidence is not appropriate,” Bhardwaj had earlier told the court.
Bhardwaj submitted that the court should consider mitigating circumstances for convicts, including their prior criminal record, age, socio-economic background, possibility of rehabilitation, and whether they can reform, before pronouncing their sentence. He also requested the court for lenient punishment to all the accused.
The Gulberg Society massacre here on February 28, 2002, when Narendra Modi was Gujarat chief minister, shook the nation when a mob of nearly 400 people set about attacking the society in the heart of Ahmedabad and killed the residents, including former MP Ehsan Jafri.
It was one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the SC-appointed SIT.
The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train was burnt near Godhra station in which 58 karsevaks going to Ayodhya were killed.
The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by May 31.
During the course of trial, as many as 338 witnesses were cross-examined, with four different judges having presided over the case.
Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are behind bars while others are out on bail.