A special trial court in Gujarat on Friday acquitted all six accused in the 2002 post-Godhra riots case in which three British nationals and their Indian driver were killed at Prantij town in Gujarat's Sabarkantha district, for want of evidence against them.
Notably, the UK government had then taken a policy decision not have an active engagement with Gujarat government after the three British nationals of Indian origin were killed. UK decided to resume engagement with Gujarat in October 2012.
Pronouncing the order in the case investigated by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team, Himmatnagar Principal District Judge I C Shah stated that the prosecution failed to prove the charges levelled against all the accused under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder).
"I have no option but to order that the accused are acquitted from the charges," the judge observed.
On February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident, Imran Dawood and his UK-based uncles Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammad Aswat were attacked by a mob at Prantij in Sabarkantha.
Saeed, Shakeel, Mohammad Aswat and their car driver Yusuf Piraghar, a local, were burnt alive by the mob on National Highway No. 8, while Imran managed to save himself with the help of police.
Those acquitted in the case are - Mithanbhai Patel, Chandu alias Prahlad Patel, Ramesh Patel, Manoj Patel, Rajesh Patel and Kalubhai Patel, all residents of Prantij.
In its 182-page order, the special trial court observed that the SIT had made several emotional arguments.
It also noted that the witnesses had failed to identify the accused persons.
In such circumstances, when there is lack of sufficient evidence against the accused, they are acquitted, the court said.
The apex court-appointed SIT had charged the six accused with the killing of 4 persons, including the three British nationals.
The SC had started monitoring the progress of nine cases of the post-Godhra riots -- of Prantij, Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gaam, Ode village (two cases), Dipda Darwaja, Sardarpura and Godhra -- after the National Human Rights Commission and various NGOs termed the probe by Gujarat police as shoddy and unreliable.