Terming the Gulbarg Society killing the “darkest day” in the history of civil society, the special SIT trial court on Friday awarded life imprisonment to 11 persons found guilty of murder, one has received a 10-year jail term and 12 others have been sentenced to seven years in prison in the case of the brutal killing of 69 people including a former lawmaker Ehsan Jafri and arson during the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Twenty-four persons were convicted and 36 acquitted in the case on June 2.
Ruling out the capital punishment for the 11 convicts guilty of murdering 69 persons as demanded by the prosecution lawyer, special SIT court judge P.B. Desai held the “convicts are not a menace to the society and they can be reformed.”
“If you look at all aspects, no previous antecedent has been placed on record. Post the incident, 90 per cent of the accused were released on bail, yet no complaints against them have been given even by victims, and there is no record to show that they committed any offence during the time of bail,” the judge said explaining why he did not award capital punishment.
However, at the same time, the judge held that life imprisonment to the 11 convicts meant life till death if the State government does not exercise its power of remission after 14 years.
“CrPC provisions give power to the State to remit the sentence after 14 years jail; Section 433-A imposes some restriction on that power. In case the State does not exercise power to remit the sentence, life imprisonment will mean that it is till death,” the court said.
“I cannot add beyond what has been prescribed under Section 302; it is not necessary for a State to exercise the power [to remit]; State may not exercise power of remittance,” the court said, requesting the State to not use this power. However the judge stressed that the court's directive was not binding.