The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Gujarat government's response on the bail pleas of some convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 Godhra train coach-burning case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared in the matter on behalf of the Gujarat government, that it was not "merely a stone-pelting" case as the convicts had bolted a bogey of the Sabarmati Express, leading to the death of several passengers on the train.
"Some are saying their role was just stone pelting. But when you lock a bogey from outside, light it on fire and then pelt stones, it is not just stone pelting," the top law officer told the bench, also comprising justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala.
"Alright, you examine this. We will list (the bail pleas) after two weeks," the bench told Mehta.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing in the court on behalf of some of the convicts, said the state government has filed appeals in the cases of certain convicts whose death penalty was commuted to life sentence by the Gujarat high court.
The court then issued a notice to the state government on the bail pleas of Abdul Raheman Dhantia alias Kankatto, Abdul Sattar Ibrahim Gaddi Asla and others.
On December 15, the top court had granted bail to convict Faruk, who was serving a life sentence in the 2002 Godhra train coach-burning case, noting that he was in jail for 17 years.
The solicitor general had opposed the plea by describing the offence as the "most heinous" one in which 59 people, including women and children, were burnt alive.
Moreover, stones were hurled at fire tenders as well, he had said.
The law officer had rather sought the hearing of the convicts' appeals at the earliest.
"The high court had dismissed his appeal on October 9, 2017. The applicant has sought bail on the ground that he has been in custody since 2004 and has undergone imprisonment for about 17 years. In view of the facts and circumstances of the case and the role attributed to the applicant, we direct the applicant to be granted bail, subject to such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the sessions (trial) court," the apex court had said in its bail order.
The appeals against the conviction of several convicts are pending adjudication in the Supreme Court.
Faruk, along with several others, was convicted for pelting stones at a coach of the Sabarmati Express.
On February 27, 2002, 59 people were killed when the S-6 coach of the train was burnt at Gujarat's Godhra, triggering riots in the state.
In its October 2017 judgement, the high court had commuted the death sentence awarded to 11 convicts in the Godhra train coach-burning case to life imprisonment.
It had upheld the life sentence awarded to 20 other convicts.