Guj govt challenges acquittals in Godhra verdict before HC

The state government has challenged a trial court's decision to acquit 61 persons in the Godhra train burning case in Gujarat High Court and sought death sentences for 20 convicts awarded life imprisonment in the case.

An appeal challenging the trial court's verdict in the case was filed in the high court on Friday, Special public prosecutor JM Panchal said here.

11 persons had been awarded death sentence and 20 others given life sentences by the special trial court on March 1 this year in the 2002 Godhra train burning case.

59 people-- mostly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya-- died in the train fire, triggering riots in the state, in which over 1,000 people, mainly from the minority community, were killed.

The trial court had acquitted 63 people in the case for want of evidence.

Special public prosecutor JM Panchal said that the prosecution filed appeal against acquittal of 61 persons in the High Court yesterday.

"We have not challenged the acquittal of one Namumiya Chaudhary, and another person who died after the verdict. So the acquittal of 61 people have been challenged," Panchal said.

"We have also prayed for enhancement of sentence of 20 people who have been given life imprisonment," he said.

The appeal will come up for hearing in due course, he said.

Those acquitted by the trial court include the prime accused Maulana Umarji, Mohammad Hussain Kalota, who was president of the Godhra Municipality at the time, and Mohammad Ansari.

The 31 persons convicted in the case, including 11 who were awarded the death sentence, have also filed appeals in the High Court.

The application for the confirmation of the death sentences -- a death sentence has to be confirmed by the High Court -- is also before the Court.

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