The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to 15 convicts, serving life term in the 2002 Sardarpura post-Godhra riots case in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive and asked them to stay outside Gujarat, in two cities of Madhya Pradesh, and do community service.
Rioters had set ablaze a home at Sardarpura village of Mehsana district in which 33 members of the minority community had taken shelter on the night of February 28, 2002 following Godhra train carnage in which 51 'karsevaks' were killed during their return from Ayodhya.
All the 33 people, including 22 women, were killed in the attack.
The rioters have been in jail since their conviction in 2012 and have been granted bail as their appeal against the high court verdict is pending in the top court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took note of four petitions on behalf of 15 life term convicts in the case and granted bail to them after putting several conditions, including that they will remain out of Gujarat and will have to relocate themselves in Indore and Jabalpur cities of Madhya Pradesh.
The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, split the 15 convicts into two groups -- sending one to Indore and the other to Jabalpur. They will all have to regularly report to police stations there.
"They will not be living together there. They will have to do community services six hours per week as a condition of the bail," the bench said, adding that they will have to produce a certificate to District Legal Services Authority of Indore and Jabalpur about their engagement in social services.
Senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for the convicts, said that the convicts can be asked to do social service either in hospitals or in temples or Gurudwara.
He also urged the court that some of them are very poor and they be asked to relocate themselves either to neighbouring Maharashtra or Rajasthan.
"Don't tell all this. They will have to go to Madhya Pradesh," the bench said, adding that one batch of six convicts would go to Indore.
"Can we have some method, on experiment basis, to ask District Legal Services Authority to help them (convicts) in getting some kind of employment," the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who welcomed the suggestion.
It then asked DLSA of Indore and Jabalpur respectively to assist convicts in getting suitable employment there.
The bench also directed the Madhya Pradesh State Legal Service Authority to file a report after three months stating as to whether the convicts have complied with the conditions or not.
Earlier, the Gujarat high court had upheld the conviction of 17 persons in the case and acquitted 14 others for want of evidence.
Prior to this, a special trial court had convicted 31 people in 2012.
The top court, in one of its earlier orders, had said that the trial court should adhere to the "two-witness" test in prosecuting the accused in the riots case.
As per this test, there should be at least two witnesses testifying against an accused before the court convict an accused.
The Supreme Court-mandated Special Investigation Team had arrested 76 people in this case and charges were framed against 73 in June 2009.
The 15 convicts, who have been granted bail on furnishing of Rs 25,000 as bond on Tuesday, are -- Prahladbhai Jagabhai Patel, Parshottambhai, Vijaybhai Ravjibhai Patel, Jayendrabhai Satabhai Patel, Sureshbhai Bhailabhai Patel, Dilipbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel, Dharmeshkumar Nathubhai Patel, Previnbhai Mangalbhai Patel, Dilipbhai Vinubhai Patel, Paresbhai Ranchodbhai Patel, Arvindbhai Ravjibhai Patel, Hemantbhai Satabhai Patel, Santhakumar Ranchodbhai Patel, Vinubhai Shanabhai Patel and Vinubhai Bhibhubhai Patel.