Death for 11 in Godhra attack, 20 get life term


Nine years after the Godhra train burning, a special court today sentenced 11 people to death and gave 20 life, terming it "a rarest of rare case".

This is perhaps the first case in the country in which 11 people have been awarded capital punishment, Special Public Prosecutor J M Panchal said after the sentencing. The death penalty will have to be confirmed by the High Court.

The 31 have been convicted for conspiring to attack the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, killing 59 people. In his judgment on February 22, Judge P R Patel had acquitted 63 others, including prime accused Maulvi Hussain Umarji.

The life imprisonment of the 20 would be calculated taking into account the time the convicts have already spent in jail. The 20 have also been slapped with a fine of Rs 17,300 each and would have to undergo imprisonment for one more year in default.

Facing murder and criminal conspiracy charges, the 31 have been convicted under the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act, Indian Railways Act and Bombay Police Act.

The prosecution had demanded death for all 31, saying the train burning was pre-planned. Panchal pointed out that none of the victims had any animosity towards the accused and made a special note of "the place of attack", saying it was chosen to ensure the victims could get little help.

One of the main defence lawyers, A A Hasan, said they had to accept the verdict. Moreover, he added, "The death sentence is not final. It is subject to confirmation by the Gujarat High Court."

Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, the spokesperson of the government, said they had always maintained that the train attack was a "pre-conceived conspiracy". "But we also respect the court decision to release 63 of the accused. The court did its job, and we respect its judgement."

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