Godhra verdict: many questions remain

The Godhra verdict still haunts the minds of right-thinking people and common men of Gujarat like the Liberal democrats, human rights activists and even right-wing radicals are pondering the verdict in the post-Godhra cases and wondering whether or not it will be as severe as the Godhra verdict.

The Godhra verdict saw 11 convicts being sentenced to death and 20 got life. In the next few months, verdicts in eight crucial post-Godhra riots cases are due.

Those awarded death:
Bilal Ismail Abdul Majid Sujela alias Haji Bilal
Abdul Razak Mohammad Kurkur
Ramzani Binyamin Behra
Hassan Ahmed Charkha alias Lalu
Jabir Biryamin Behra
Mehboob Khalid Chanda
Salim alias Salman Yusuf Sattar Jarda
Siraz Mohammad Abhul Maida alias Bala
Irfan Abdul Majid Ghanchi Kalandar
    alias Irfan Bhopo
Irfan Mohammad Hanif Abdul Gani Pataliya
Mehboob Ahmed Yusuf Hassan alias Latiko

The Supreme Court-appointed SIT headed by ex-CBI chief R. K. Raghavan had probed eight other cases, including Naroda village and Naroda Patiya massacre cases, Gulberg case, Sardarpura massacre case, Ode village massacre case and Dipdi Darwaja massacre case.

While the Godhra verdict of death sentences to 11 and life to 20 involved in the death of 59 karsevaks travelling mainly from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad in the Sabarmati Express, the eight post-Godhra riot cases involve deaths of hundreds of people, mostly Muslims. These include brutal killings of 69 people in Gulberg Society, 95 people in Naroda Patiya, 27 people in Sardarpura, 11 people in Naroda village and more than two dozen in Ode village and Dipdi Darwaja cases.

The post-Godhra cases probed by the SIT and monitored by the top court involve killings of more than 330 people by hundreds of rioters. Among those accused are former minister and BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, VHP leaders Jaidip Patel, Babu Bajrangi and hundreds of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP members.

Like the Godhra case, the accused in all these cases are also facing trials for murder, criminal conspiracy, rioting, arson and attempt to murder and looting. “Trials in these cases are at various stages so judgments are expected after a few months,” a police official who was a member of the SIT said.

“Going by logic, will an even more serious punishment await those who were responsible for the bloodbath that followed the burning of the train?” human rights activist Fr Cedric Prakash wondered.

“I hope the judiciary will maintain the same standards in the post-Godhra riots case as applied in the train burning case. The scale of justice has so far been lopsided in Gujarat but we sincerely hope that this will change with this case,” Gujarat PUCL president J. S. Bandukwala, himself a victim of the riots in Baroda, said. He said that a person like Babu Bajrangi should also be sentenced to death for his role in the post-Godhra riots. “Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacre cases are FIR cases for higher punishment as they were also premeditated,” human rights lawyer Mukul Sinha said.

Those punished by special court in Sabarmati jail will challenge the verdict in High Court within 90 days(in any case death sentence by lower court needs High Court’s confirmation). Then the matter will possibly be taken to the Supreme Court by either party.

If death sentence is approved there, those punished will go to the President of India. The President of India will send files to central Home ministry, the central home ministry will send files to concerned state’s home ministry, concerned state’s Home ministry will review the case and will send the files back to central Home ministry, central Home ministry if satisfied with state’s answer will add its recommendations and send the files to the President. This process is not time bound.

Then we know what is most likely to happen. There are 309 prisoners in different jails of India with death penalty, but they are alive because their cases are in appeal in higher court. Then there are 31 murderers in India whose death penalty is approved even by the highest court, but their further appeal is pending with the President of India.

State government’s reaction:
Gujarat government spokesperson Jainarayan Vyas has welcomed the verdict. He however said that all 31 culprits should get death sentence. He added that only after looking at the verdict’s copy, the government would decide whether to challenge it or not.

VHP reacts:
Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Pravinbhai Togadia said there should be death sentence for all culprits. Death sentence to only some culprits is injustice to Hindus. Togadia said “the state government should go in appeal against the special court’s decision to free 61 accused and against life imprisonment to 20 who in fact deserve the death sentence.”


This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 10

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