Godhra train-burning case: Two accused convicted, three others acquitted
A special court in Ahmedabad convicted two accused and acquitted three in the 2002 Godhra train burning incident, on Monday. The convicted identified as Farukh Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Batik were given life imprisonment. They were convicted for conspiracy. The accused were arrested in 2015-16 by different agencies. Notably, a fire inside Sabarmati train near Godhra, Gujarat, killed 59 on February 27, 2002.
On March 1, 2011, a special court convicted 31 people. Out of them, 11 were given death sentences and 20 sentenced to life imprisonment. The court had also acquitted 63 others. However, the Gujarat High Court reduced the death sentence of the convicts. Last year, they were given life imprisonment. Reportedly, there are 8 who are still absconding in this case.
The Godhra incident is widely seen as a tipping point which led to 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. In the violence, nearly 1,000 people died and property worth thousands of crores destroyed. The S6 coach of the train returning from Ayodhya caught fire killing kar sevaks. The Supreme Court in 2008 handed over the investigation to Special Investigation Team (SIT).
In March 2006, a special commission formed by UPA had submitted a report to SC, which termed the incident an accident. The report was called 'unconstitutional and invalid' by the top court, after which SIT was formed. In 2008, the Nanavati-Shah report submitted to SC said the incident was a conspiracy. The trials started in June 2009, eight years after the incident.
The SIT concluded the incident wasn't a mere case of mob anger, busting earlier myths. The 31 convicts were charged with murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy. Notably, questions were raised on the acquittals. The Gujarat government challenged the acquittals in High Court, and raised questions after prime accused Maulana Umarji, Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary were let go.