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Godhra judgement likely by month-end

By Sheela Bhatt
Last updated on: January 14, 2011 20:36 IST
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After a wait of nine years, the judgement in the Godhra case is likely to be delivered by the month end.

The Godhra case is related to burning of Sabramati Express's compartment C-6 at Godhra on February 27, 2002 in which 59 people were burnt alive.

The judge of the special court P R Patel trying the case has informed the prosecution that he will deliver the judgement by the end of the month.

According to the charge-sheet a group of Muslims living in Singal Falia, an adjoining colony, had conspired to kill Hindu kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya on that train.

The burning of Sabarmati Express has proven to be a turning point of contemporary Indian history.

The trial of one of the most controversial legal cases of independent India went on for more than 18 months. Many non-government organisations and accused had objected to the conduct of the trial in Gujarat. Almost, every legal point of the case had been challenged in court.

The case has 15 accused named as main conspirators and executors of the plot. There are another 119 accused facing smaller charges. They had complained that in fight between Gujarat government and secular organisations they have suffered a lot due to delayed justice.

When the Gujarat government applied the Prevention of Terrorism Act to the accused it was challenged in court. POTA has now been repealed. The justification of applying POTA and the case related to powers of the review committee was heard in the Supreme Court. One of the judgements regarding that will be coming on January 17.

The most awaited aspect of the judgement will be about the conspiracy angle.

Whether the burning of Sabarmati Express was a pre-planned crime or not has been argued forcefully in the court. The issue became more controversial after the central government appointed Justice Bannerjee committee that gave opinion that burning of train wasn't a pre-planned conspiracy but a spontaneous event.

The police case suggests that Godhra residents Razak Kurkur and Maulvi Ommerji were part of the gang that hatched the conspiracy. Three accused were tracked to Karachi, Pakistan by the Gujarat police. Salim Panwala and Shaukat Charkha are still hiding in Pakistan while Ibrahim Kachuka has returned to face the trial.

Out of 512 witnesses, 350 gave their deposition to the court. The investigating officer Noel Parmar's deposition went on for 17 days.

The entire investigation was supervised by senior police officer Rakesh Asthana who is currently police commissioner of Baroda.

Those who are trying to undermine importance of confessional statement of Aseemanad should know that in this case eight confessional statements have been recorded and are highly relied upon to build up their case by the prosecution.

One statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the rest under Section 32 of POTA.

The case has seen many ups and downs. One of the witnesses Ilyas Husain Mulla had alleged that Gujarat police tortured him. On the balance, the courtroom proceedings were conducted without many hitches.

According to reliable sources, the Special Investigation Team led by former CBI chief R K Raghavan has agreed with the conspiracy angle of the Gujarat police. The Justice Nanavati commission, which is looking into train burning event and the riots that followed, has in its first report related to Godhra event confirmed the Gujarat police's stand that the incident was a pre-planned terror attack.

The public prosecutor of the case has requested the court to give 'major punishment' to the accused. Under the provisions of POTA and the Indian Penal Code this could be the death sentence or life imprisonment for more than dozen accused if and when the Judge Patel accepts the theory of conspiracy and charges of terrorism put forth by the prosecution.

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Sheela Bhatt
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