Convicts in post Godhra riots case granted bail: SC directs them to carry out spiritual, social work

Vikash Aiyappa

New Delhi, Jan 28: In a major order, the Supreme Court has granted bail to the convicts in the post-Godhra riots case.

The bail was granted in the Sardarpura post-Godhra riots case in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive. The court put the convicts in two batches-one at Indore and the other at Jabalpur.

The court directed them to carry out spiritual and social work during bail. The appeals of the convicts are pending in the Supreme Court. The Gujarat High Court had acquitted 14 and convicted 17 in the case. The 17 were awarded life sentences by the High Court in the 2002 riots case.

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The Supreme Court also directed the district legal authorities to ensure that the convicts carry out spiritual and social work. It directed the authorities to find them work for livelihood. Further, the authorities were also directed to file a compliance report on the conduct of the convicts out on bail.

In all, 76 accused were arrested in Sardarpur case by police, out of whom two died during pendency of trial, while one was a juvenile.

The court had framed charges against 73 accused in June 2009 and initiated trial in the case.

Besides the conviction of 31, the lower court had acquitted 42 others. The SIT later challenged in the high court the acquittal of 31 persons out of these 42.

However, the HC today upheld the Mehsana district court order acquitting 31 out of these 42.

Meanwhile, the 17 were convicted by the high court for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and other sections of IPC.

The HC also upheld the decision of the lower court to not accept the "conspiracy theory" put up by the prosecution, which had alleged that the attack on minority community was pre-planned and a conspiracy was hatched following the Godhra train burning incident.

Thirty-one persons were earlier awarded life sentence along with a fine of Rs 50,000 each in the verdict passed by special SIT court judge S C Srivastava while hearing the matter on November 9, 2011.

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As many as 73 people were made accused in the case, in which 33 people of minority community were burnt to death at Sardarpura in Vijapur taluka of Mehsana district on the night of February 28, 2002, to avenge the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 people, mainly karsevaks, were burnt to death on February 27, 2002.

This was one of the nine post-Godhra riot cases probed by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).

A mob of hundreds of people had surrounded a lane, called 'Sheikh Vaas', in Sardarpura on the intervening night of February 28 and March 1, 2002, where minority population of the village used to live.

The people of minority community took shelter in a 'pucca' house of one Ibrahim Sheikh. However, the mob torched the house after pouring petrol on it, in which 33 people, including 22 women, were charred to death.

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