The critics of the Gujarat police and the judiciary should learn a lesson from the judgment in the 2002 Ode riots case and stop insinuations, Acting Director-General of Police Chittaranjan Singh said on Monday, after the verdict was announced.

A special fast track court here convicted 23 persons of murder, conspiracy and abetment to murder and acquitted 23 others in the case of the death of 24 people in two incidents of riots by a mob on March 1 and 2, 2002.

Special Public Prosecutor P.N. Parmar said 158 witnesses were examined and more than 170 documentary evidences placed before the court. The trial started at the end of 2009 and was about to be completed when, in May 2011, the then judge resigned, citing personal reasons. Thereafter, Poonam Singh was appointed the judge of the special court, and the trial resumed.

Without naming anyone, Mr. Singh said those who were criticising the State for delayed justice should remember that but for some NGOs seeking repeated stay on the hearing on flimsy grounds, justice would have been delivered long ago.

Welcoming the ruling, State Congress president Arjun Modhvadia said it was regrettable that the “real perpetrators of the genocide” were still at the helm of affairs in the government and the ruling party, and the “small fishes” were being put behind bars. “It is unfortunate that the long arm of the law has still not been able to reach the big fishes, the real brains behind the 2002 riots.”

“It feels good that after a decade-long wait, at least some people have been brought to book for what they had done to us,” said Majid Miya, one of the survivors of the carnage and an eyewitness in the case.

The situation outside the court became tense, with the family members of some accused turning their ire on journalists. However, it was quickly brought under control by the police.

Ode is the third of the Godhra and post-Godhra cases wherein the verdict has been delivered. In the Godhra train carnage case, 11 accused were awarded the capital punishment and 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment and 63 of the 94 accused were acquitted. In the case of massacre at Sardarpura in Mehsana district that claimed 33 lives, 31 accused were awarded life imprisonment and 42 were acquitted.