Godhra case: Prosecution for death sentence for all 31 convicts

Godhra case: Prosecution for death sentence for all 31 convicts

After hearing arguments from both the sides, the Special court reserved to March one its order on quantum of punishment. Special public prosecutor J M Panchal told reporters after coming out of the court: "We have prayed for death sentence for all the 31 convicted. We have made submission in support of our demand. The matter is now sub-judice and I cannot disclose anything further. We will have to wait till March 1".

I M Munshi, one of the defence lawyers, said, "We have opposed the prosecution's demand for death sentence for all the 31 persons...we believe that this is not the rarest of the rare case."

"We have submitted to the court that quantum of punishment for the guilty should be based on his role in the incident, and considering his history, family circumstances and time spent in the jail since the arrest," Munshi told reporters.

Munshi further said that there cannot be death sentence for all the 31, as each individual would have a distinct role in the incident. There cannot be a single yardstick, he said. Special Judge P R Patel on Tuesday convicted 31 persons and acquitted 63 others in the Godhra train burning case. Fifty-nine persons were killed in the incident on February 27, 2002, triggering large-scale communal violence in Gujarat.

Advocate A D Shah, another defence lawyer, said the judge also heard some convicts, who have sought leniency in punishment, individually. While convicting, the court had accepted the theory of criminal conspiracy behind the burning of the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express carrying karsevaks returning from Ayodhya.

Scientific evidence, statement of witnesses and circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record formed the basis of the court's ruling on conspiracy theory in its over 850-page judgement.

The prime convicts among the 31 include Haji Bilal, Abdul Razak Kurkur, Jabir Behra, Salim Zarda and Mehbub Hasan alias Latiko. The trial, conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail here, began in June 2009. Those acquitted by the court included Maulana Umarji, a prime accused.

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