After 9 yrs, 31 convicted in Godhra train burning case

AHMEDABAD, February 22 (Agencies): Thirty-one people were today convicted and 63 others, including the main accused Maulvi Umarji, were acquitted by a special court here in the 2002 Godhra train burning incident that left 59 people dead and triggered violence in Gujarat that had claimed the lives of over 1200 people, mainly Muslims. The sentencing would be pronounced on February 25 after arguments on the quantum of punishment by the Special Court that accepted the theory of conspiracy behind the burning of the coach of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya.
The court acquitted prime accused Maulana Umarji while other prominent accused Haji Billa and Rajjak Kurkur were convicted. “Special Court judge P R Patel has convicted 31 accused while acquitting 63 others,” Public Prosecutor J M Panchal said after the verdict inside the Sabarmati jail. “On February 25, there will be a hearing on the point of sentence, and after that quantum of punishment will be pronounced,” Panchal said. “The conspiracy theory has been accepted by the court,” he said. Scientific evidence, statement of witnesses, circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record formed the basis of the judgement.
The trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail here began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 94 accused in the carnage that had triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat. The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in burning of the S-6 coach of the train on February 27, 2002 near Godhra, about 125 km from here in which 59 people were killed.

BJP welcomes verdict in Gohdra case

New Delhi, February 22 (PTI): BJP on Tuesday welcomed the Gujarat special court verdict convicting 31 accused in the 2002 Godhra train burning case and said it had “exposed the nefarious designs” of the UPA government which “tried to cover up” the entire episode. “Certainly, there has been a degree of assurance that law and justice has prevailed. There were elements who were trying to belittle it. There have been politicians who tried to abuse it,” BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad told reporters.
He slammed the Justice UC Banerjee Committee report, which found that the fire was lit from inside the coach. The Banerjee Committee, appointed by then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to probe the causes of fire in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, had found that the fire was “accidental”. “You remember the Banerjee commission report. A retired judge of Supreme Court gave a collusive report that the fire was lit from inside,” Prasad told reporters outside Parliament. “It was a sham report at the time of 2005 elections,” he added. Asked about the acquittal of one of the prime accused Maulana Umraji, Prasad said, “Conspiracy has been established.”
Reacting to the judgement, BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay said, “This has exposed the nefarious designs of the UPA government which tried to cover up the entire ghastly episode.” Alleging that the UPA government tried to put the blame on the victims themselves, he said, “But we welcome that culprits have been given punishments.” “It has exposed the so-called secularists including Lalu, UPA government which had set up a fake inquiry under a retired SC judge, which put the blame on victims themselves. This verdict has to be welcomed initially,” he said. 31 people were convicted by a special court in the 2002 Godhra train burning incident that left 59 people dead and triggered violence in Gujarat that had claimed the lives of over 1200 people, mainly Muslims.

Godhra: From Feb 2002 to Feb 2011

 Following is the chronology of the case related to the 2002 Godhra train carnage and the communal violence that followed the incident.
February 27, 2002: 59 ‘karsevaks’ die after S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express is torched by a mob near Godhra railway station. FIR filed against 1,500 people.
February 28-March 31, 2002: Communal violence erupts in various parts of Gujarat killing over 1,200 people, mostly belonging to the minority community.
March 3, 2002: Prevention Of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) invoked against those arrested for Godhra train burning case.
March 6, 2002: Gujarat government appoints a Commission under Commission of Inquiry Act to probe the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra riots.
March 9, 2002: Police include IPC section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) against all accused.
March 25, 2002: POTO suspended on all the accused due to pressure from the Central government.
May 27, 2002: First charge sheet filed against 54 accused but they are not charged under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTO became an Act as it was cleared by Parliament).
February 18, 2003: Prevention of Terrorism Act re-invoked against the accused after BJP govt is re-elected in the state.
November 21, 2003: Supreme Court stays judicial proceeding of all riot-related cases including Godhra train burning incident.
September 4, 2004: A Committee headed by former Supreme Court judge U C Banerjee constituted following a Union Cabinet decision to inquire into certain aspects of the incident under Railway Ministry when RJD leader Lalu Prasad was the minister.
September 21, 2004: Decision to review POTA charges against the accused as POTA is repealed by the newly elected UPA government.
January 17, 2005: U C Banerjee submits preliminary report suggesting that fire in S6 coach was an ‘accident’ and ruled out the possibility of fire having resulted after any external attack.
May 16, 2005: POTA Review Committee gives its opinion to not charge the accused under POTA.
October 13, 2006: Gujarat High Court rules formation of U C Banerjee committee as “illegal” and “unconstitutional” since Nanavati-Shah Commission was already conducting inquiry in all riot-related cases and said Banerjee probe results stand ‘invalid’.
March 26, 2008: SC constitutes Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate Godhra train burning incident and eight other post-Godhra riot cases.
September 18, 2008: Nanavati Commission submits its report on Godhra train burning incident, saying that it was a pre-planned conspiracy and S6 coach was torched by a mob which had poured petrol inside it.
February 12, 2009: HC upholds Pota Review Committee decision that the act cannot be applied in this case.
February 20, 2009: Kin of victim of Godhra train burning case move SC against decision of HC to drop POTA charges against the accused. Case is still pending.
May 1, 2009: SC lifts stay on trial of Godhra and all other cases being probed by the SIT, after the team headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan makes steady progress in the Godhra-train buring and eight other major riot cases in the state.
June 1, 2009: Trial of the Godhra train carnage commences inside the Sabarmati Central jail in Ahmedabad.
May 6, 2010: SC restrains trial courts to pronounce judgement in nine sensitive riot cases of Gujarat including Godhra train incident.
September 28, 2010: Trial concludes, no pronouncement of judgement due to stay by the apex court.
January 18, 2011: SC lifts ban on pronouncement of verdict.
February 22, 2011: Special court convicts 31 accused and acquits 63 others in the train burning case.