But neither State nor SIT has sought enhancement of life term for 31

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team has challenged in the Gujarat High Court a fast track court's judgment acquitting 31 persons of the Sardarpura massacre, witnessed during the 2002 communal riots in the State. (Thirty-three persons were killed by a mob at Sardarpura in Mehsana district on March 1, 2002.)

On November 9 last, Special court judge S. C. Srivastava sentenced 31 persons to life imprisonment and exonerated 11 others for want of evidence. He acquitted 31 persons giving them the benefit of the doubt. The SIT, probing some of the gruesome massacres during the riots, has not challenged the exoneration of 11 persons.

The Gujarat government has already challenged the fast track court's acquittals, but neither the State nor the SIT has sought enhancement of punishment for the 31 sentenced to life imprisonment. Some survivors have also filed an appeal in the High Court challenging the acquittal of 14 of the accused, claiming that there was clear evidence available against them.

The High Court granted the State government and other litigants “pardon” for the delay in filing the appeals on technical grounds, and fixed the next hearing for April 27.

SIT sources said the Team was also likely to challenge the Ode fast track court's order last week acquitting 23 accused, even as it sentenced 18 persons to life term and five others to seven years' imprisonment each for killing 24 persons in the village in Anand district.

Refuses to hear plea

Meanwhile, Justice M.D. Shah on Tuesday refused to hear a bail application of IPS officer Abhay Chudasma — arrested in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. The IPS officer, who then was Joint Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad and was considered one of the key players in the November 2005 fake encounter, sought bail after the former Minister, Amit Shah, was granted conditional bail by the High Court.