Mehsana, Gujarat, Nov 9: A special court in Gujarat convicted and sentenced to life 31 people out of 73 accused in one of the nine Gujarat riots cases of 2002.
The special fast-track court in Mehsana delivered the judgement on Wednesday in the Sardarpura riot case in which 33 people were burnt alive in Sadarpura March 1, 2002 during the communal violence that broke out after the Sabarmati Express train burning incident at Godhra.
The charges against those convicted included murder, attempt to murder, arson, rioting, criminal conspiracy among others. But the court also acquitted 42 people accused of being involved in the case.
No one was given the death penalty as the prosecution failed to prove the conspiracy theory behind the the burning incident.
Sadarpura is one of nine Gujarat riots cases handed over to Special Investigation Team (SIT). The carnage is also the first post-Godhra train burning case which was being handeled by the SIT in which convictions have taken place.
A mob had burnt a house of one Ibrahim Sheikh of Sardarpura village in Vijapur taluka where many people were hiding after riots broke out in the village on night of February 28, 2002. In the arson 33 persons including 20 women were charred to death inside the house.
In all 76 accused were arrested out of whom two died during the pendency of trial, while one was juvenile, against whom trial was on in juvenile court.
The court had framed charges against 73 accused in June 2009 and initiated trial in the case.
The prosecution alleged that the attack on minority community was pre-planned and the conspiracy was hatched by some local leader after the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express train was set on fire on February 27, 2002, near Godhra railway station in which 59 people were killed.
The prosecution had further submitted that weapons were distributed by the accused in the run-up to the incident.
The accused had claimed that they were being falsely implicated and the violence was perpetrated by people who had come from outside.
YB Sheikh, the advocate representing the riot victims, has submitted that over 80 witnesses who were also victims of the violence, had named the accused while giving statement to the police and and also correctly identified the accused in court during trial.
In all 112 witnesses were examined out of the 157 named in the chargesheet during trial including 20 doctors, 17 inquest witnesses, 40 riot victims, 20 police and 15 others.