New Delhi: A special court in Ahmedabad on Friday sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment, 12 others to seven years and one more to ten years in jail in the Gulberg Society massacre case of the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which 69 people were killed. The judge, when pronouncing the sentence, called the day of the massacre the “darkest day in the history of civilisation”.
The court said that the power of remission of the sentence lies in the hands of the legislature, but advised the government not to revoke the sentence.
The prosecution had earlier sought the death sentence or life imprisonment for all the accused.
On June 2, Judge P.B. Desai convicted 24 of the 66 accused, including VHP leader Atul Vaidya, for the incident in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed. Out of the 66 accused, six died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others, including Vaidya, have been convicted for lesser offences.
While pronouncing the judgement, the court had said there was no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case and dropped charges under section 120B of the Indian Penal Code.
Also read: Gulberg Society Case: A Timeline of Events
Survivors and family members of the victims had expressed their disappointment at the judgment that ruled out criminal conspiracy and acquitted a large number of people. Jafri’s wife Zakia had said that the judgment was very far from her expectations. Their son, Tanvir, said he could not understand how the court thinks 24 people could burn down an entire housing colony and kill 69 people, and questioned why the verdict took so long.
On February 28, 2002, a mob attacked Gulberg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad, killing 69 people. This was the second largest incident of violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots, after the Naroda Patiya massacre. The case was among nine others from during the riots that were investigated by a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team. Verdicts in all nine cases have been pronounced, except for the Naroda Gram case.