AHMEDABAD: Fourteen years after the gruesome massacre of 69 people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri in the Gulberg Society here, a special court today convicted 24 of the 66 accused, 11 of them for murder, but dropped conspiracy charge against all.
Special Court Judge P B Desai also acquitted 36 others including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel. While the charge under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC was upheld conspiracy charge under Section 120 B was dropped against all the accused.
Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted today, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others including VHP leader Atul Vaidya have been convicted for lesser offences.
The court said that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case while dropping section 120 B of the IPC.
The quantum of sentence for those convicted in the case will be delivered on June 6.
The Gulberg Society massacre, when Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, shook the nation when a mob of 400 people set about attacking the society in the heart of Ahmedabad and killed the residents including the former MP Jafri. It was one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.
The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station on February 27, 2002 during which 58 ‘karsevaks’ were killed.
Reacting to the judgment, Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, expressed disappointment over the verdict, saying all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property.
“I saw them doing so with my own eyes,” she said, adding as a woman she does not have the courage to demand capital punishment but they should get stringent punishment.
Her son Tanvir Jafri said he would consult lawyers on how 36 others were acquitted before deciding their next strategy.
Tanvir expressed surprise how only 24
people were convicted when a mob of 400 were involved in the rioting.
He said it was a tough time for the family, neighbors and other residents of the society who had to approach the highest court for the legal fight.
Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and K G Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulberg Society was located, are among those acquitted.
The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by May 31.
Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are behind bars, while others are out on bail.
Bipin Patel, who is acquitted in the case, is a sitting BJP corporator from Asarva seat. He was also corporator in 2002 when the massacre happened and won the election for fourth consecutive term last year.
During the trial, riots victim’s lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulberg Society.
The defense had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after Jafri fired several rounds at them.–PTI