But Congress questions government on loss of nine years for the acquitted

After the G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission, the special fast track court — appointed by the Gujarat High Court on the orders of the Supreme Court — is the second judicial body to uphold the Gujarat government's “pre-planned conspiracy” theory behind the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage. But the U.C. Bannerjee Committee, appointed by the then Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, dismissed the conspiracy theory and held that the fire aboard S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was “purely accidental.”

Gujarat government spokesman and Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas said Tuesday's verdict vindicated the State's stand of “conspiracy.”

The verdict was a “big slap” in the face of some “so-called NGOs and others” who tried to “blacken” the Narendra Modi government through canards and “false propaganda.” No one should have any more doubt about the impartiality of the judicial process and its verdict, he said.

Mr. Vyas refused to comment on the acquittals or say whether the government would appeal in the High Court until after it went through the entire verdict.

Rubbishing the Bannerjee report, Mr. Vyas said the State government always held constitution of the committee illegal and ultra virus the constitution.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad too hailed the verdict as a vindication of its stand on the “conspiracy theory.”

VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia, however, expressed anger at the acquittal of the 63 accused and said he would urge the government to go in appeal and “ensure that they all get capital punishment.”

But the critics of the government expressed annoyance at the verdict and questioned the loss of nearly nine years for the 63 persons acquitted of all charges.

State Congress president Siddhartha Patel said: “Had the government held the investigation properly, nine years could have been saved for the acquitted. The government has to answer the question.”

“Miscarriage of justice”

Rights activist and director of the voluntary organisation Prashant Fr. Cedric Prakash called the verdict “another miscarriage of justice.”

Both Fr. Prakash and Shabnam Hashmi, convener of the Delhi-based voluntary organisation, ANHAD, too questioned the government on the loss of years for the acquitted. Fr. Prakash said the verdict “left many questions unanswered with a lot of glaring gaps.” Claiming that the conspiracy theory was “totally hollow,” he said a “hash job had been blatantly done to stick to the theory,” even after the alleged “main conspirators” Moulana Umarji and Kalota were found not guilty and acquitted.

Only when the “full truth” about the train carnage was brought before the people, would the “cause of justice be served,” he said.

Ms. Hashmi also rubbished the conspiracy theory and wondered why the UPA government at the Centre was not ordering a CBI probe into the train carnage as demanded by her organisation.

Saeed Umarji, son of the acquitted Moulana, however, expressed satisfaction with the verdict and said “his faith” in the judiciary was further strengthened by it. Right from the beginning he was convinced that his father would be acquitted as there was no case against him. “An old and honest man like him could not have hatched a conspiracy,” said Saeed.