Observing that “people are languishing in jail for over 10 years,” the Supreme Court on Thursday asked a Sessions Court to complete the trial in the Gulberg Society case, one of the nine cases connected to the 2002 post-Godhra riots, in three months.
Twelve years after a mob attacked the Gulberg society at Chamanpura in Ahmedabad on February 22, 2002, killing 71 persons, including former parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, a Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said no time should be wasted to bring a closure to the case.
The Gulberg case trial had lumbered on through periodic retirements of trial judges who heard the case, procedural delays and a flurry of complaints filed by victims against the conduct of the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The case has a total 73 accused. Of this, five continue to remain in jail, denied bail. The case has 580 witnesses.
The case now has a new judge, following the retirement of the previous one. Principal Sessions Judge, Ahmedabad, P.V. Desai, has been assigned to preside over the case.
Chief Justice Dattu, however, said the judgment in the case should be prepared but not pronounced by the trial court until further notice from the apex court.
When SIT chief and former CBI director R.K. Raghavan submitted that the trial court was unlikely to complete the trial in three months, the court insisted that trial proceedings should be finished expeditiously and any delay communicated to the Bench.
The Gulberg case has had a chequered history since the Supreme Court started monitoring the nine riots-related cases after a petition from the National Human Rights Commission.
The cases pertain to the riots in Gulberg Society, Ode, Sardarpura, Narodao Gaon, Naroda Patya, Machipith, Tarsali, Pandarwada and Raghavapura.