The special trial court’s verdict on Thursday convicting 24 persons and acquitting 36 accused in the Gulbarg Society massacre case has evoked mixed reactions from victims like Zakia Jafri to lawyers and activists fighting for justice.
Ms. Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jafri, former MP, was among the 69 people killed in Gulbarg society, felt disappointed at 36 accused being let off by the court for lack of evidence.
‘Not up to the mark’
“More than half of them have been acquitted, which shows that the verdict and the investigation were not up to mark. It is like half justice. I will have to continue my legal battle,” she said after the verdict was delivered amidst high security in the Ahmedabad sessions court.
Ms. Jafri along with activist Teesta Setalvad unsuccessfully tried to implicate the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi for allegedly failing to protect the fellow citizens during the communal frenzy which saw killings of over 1,000 people in the State in 2002.
The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team headed by R.K. Raghavan, which was asked to examine the role of Mr. Modi, found no “prosecutable evidence” to implicate Mr. Modi and other top Ministers and officials of the time.
‘A major thing’
Advocate S.M. Vora, who appeared for the victims of Gulbarg society incident, said “the conviction of 24 people was a major thing.”
“I am satisfied with the court’s verdict holding 24 persons guilty of whom 11 have been found guilty under Section 302 of the IPC pertaining to murder and 13 others under other charges,” Mr. Vora told media persons after the judgment.
Another lawyer appearing for the accused said “dropping of conspiracy charge is a major victory for them because the prosecution tried to introduce conspiracy when there was none.”
“We will go to High Court so far as 11 major convicts are concerned. We have tried our level best. We have not charged a single penny from any accused during the entire course of trial,” advocate Abhay Bhardwaj said.
Human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash, who has been supporting the fight for justice, said that though the verdict was to be respected it was not enough.
According to Fr. Prakash, for the victims’ families, who had lost their loved ones, there was naturally a feeling of dissatisfaction.
“For them, when key BJP functionaries and a police official [who had allegedly destroyed evidence] are let off, there is the expected feeling of unbelief and disappointment; like many others, they wonder how could only 11 persons be responsible for the murder of 69? Why have the big ones been allowed to go scot-free?” Fr. Prakash asked.