Gandhinagar, October 9: The Gujarat High Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts to life imprisonment in the 2002 Godhra train coach burning case. Notably, 60 Hindu Kaesevak were burned to death when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was torched near Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.
The Gujarat High Court was hearing appeals over the SIT court’s order acquitting 63 people and convicting 31 in a 2001 verdict. Among the 31 people convicted, 11 had been sentenced to death while 20 got life-imprisonment.
A bench of Justice AS Dave and Justice GR Udhwani also ordered Gujarat government to pay Rs 10 lakh to the families of people who died in the Godhra riots after observing that the state had failed to maintain law and order with regard to the incident.
The coach S-6 of the Ahmedabad-Varanasi Sabarmati Express was set ablaze at Gujarat’s Godhra station on February 27, 2002, killing 60 Hindu karsevaks returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. On March 1, 2011, a special SIT court had convicted 31 people, accepting the prosecution’s argument that the train burning was not an accident but part of a conspiracy. Eleven people were sentenced to death and 20 others given life in jail. Sixty-three people were acquitted.
However, those acquitted included the prime accused, Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra Municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh.
Later, several appeals were filed in the Gujarat High Court challenging the conviction, while the state government had questioned the acquittal of 63 people. The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, had also concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach was not an accident, but it was torched.