Defence disputes ‘rarest of rare cases' argument

A special fast track court has reserved till March 1 its order on the quantum of punishment to 31 persons convicted in the 2002 Godhra train carnage case.

Judge P.R. Patel, who on February 22 pronounced them guilty of a “pre-planned conspiracy” to set fire to coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on the outskirts of Godhra station on February 27, 2002, reserved verdict on the sentence after hearing both the prosecution and defence on Friday.

The court proceedings during the special sitting in the high security Sabarmati central jail in Ahmedabad were held in camera.

The prosecution demanded the death penalty for all 31 convicted persons, terming the incident the “rarest of the rare” cases. Asked about the submissions made before the court, prosecution counsel J.M. Panchal said the matter was sub judice.

Defence counsel I.M. Munshi told mediapersons that defence disputed the “rarest of the rare” case argument and submitted that the incident was “only a reaction to misbehaviour by Vishwa Hindu Parishad kar sevaks” who were travelling by the train.

It demanded that the guilty be awarded the minimum punishment and not more than life term.

Defence said the death penalty should not be imposed considering the individual role of all convicts, their past history, family circumstances and the time they spent in jail while being in judicial custody.

The prosecution, however, argued that 59 innocent persons lost their lives and 48 others were injured in the S-6 coach fire, which was a case of “brutal murder and criminal conspiracy.”