Accepting the “pre-planned conspiracy” theory of the prosecution, a special fast track court — appointed by the Gujarat High Court on the orders of the Supreme Court — on Tuesday convicted 31 accused and acquitted 63 others in the Godhra train burning case.
Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly ‘kar sevaks' returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was burnt on February 27, 2002 at the Godhra station.
Pronouncing the judgment in camera in the court held inside the high-security Sabarmati central jail on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, judge P.R. Patel said a hearing for deciding the quantum of punishment for the convicted persons would be held on February 25. All the 31 accused were held guilty on two major counts — Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
Interestingly, even while accepting the “conspiracy” theory, the court acquitted at least two of the accused whom the police had all along maintained were among the “main conspirators.” They are Moulana Umarji — who was alleged to have shouted over the public address system fitted in a nearby mosque asking the people of Godhra to rush to the railway station and “kill” kar sevaks aboard the Sabarmati Express — and Bilal Hussain Kalota, the then Congress-supported (independent) president of the Godhra municipality, who was claimed to be the main person to have collected the mob outside the rail platform to “set fire” to S-6 coach.
The owner of the Aman Guest House, Abdul Razzak Kurkur, where, according to the prosecution, a meeting was held the previous night to “hatch the conspiracy,” was among the 31 convicted.
Tuesday's proceedings were held for just 20 minutes before the judge handed over copies of the over 850-page judgment to the public prosecutor and the principal defence advocate, and adjourned the session.