The Gujarat High Court has acquitted the 12 persons who were convicted to life imprisonment by a lower court in the 2002 Ghodasar communal riots case.
Fourteen members of the minority community were killed in various agricultural fields in about half-a-dozen isolated cases on March 1, 2002.
According to the police, the members of the minority community hiding in the agricultural fields after being attacked in their villages, were picked up by some armed mobs and killed on the outskirts of villages of Ghodasar, Jinjir, Jalanpur, Sindhoda and some other villages in Kaira district, central Gujarat. The police, however, after registering the incidents, had clubbed all the cases together. Sixty-three persons were arrested and tried in court.
In one of the earliest verdicts delivered in connection with the 2002 communal riots in the State, the Nadiad sessions court had convicted 12 persons but acquitted 51 others, giving them the benefit of the doubt in the December 2003 judgment.
All the 12 convicted have been in jail for the last nine years. Of the 51 acquitted, 31 were arrested from a bus a few hours after the incidents and the police had clamed that some of the accused carried arms, but none of the witnesses could identify any of them as attackers, forcing the court to acquit them.
While the State government did not challenge the lower court's acquittal, the convicts challenged the judgment in the High Court on the grounds that the “eye-witnesses” did not come forward to testify until nearly a week after the incidents although they had been present in the nearby relief camp and were approached by the police.
The five eye-witnesses also gave contradictory accounts of the incidents and the two persons, considered the main culprits by the police, who had been absconding for some time, were acquitted as the witnesses turned hostile.
A Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justices A.L. Dave and N.V. Anjaria, upheld the appeal and acquitted the 12 convicts for lack of conclusive evidences against them.
Keywords: 2002 Ghodasar communal riots case