Will seek death penalty for 11 Godhra train burning convicts: Gujarat government

The high court upheld total 31 convictions in the case and commuted the death penalties of the 11 convicts to life term, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said.

Published: 20th February 2023 12:28 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2023 03:36 PM   |  A+A-

59 persons lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.

File image of 2002 Godhra violence. (Photo | AFP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Gujarat government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will press for death penalty to 11 convicts whose sentences in the 2002 Godhra train burning case were commuted to life imprisonment by the state's high court.

The submission was made by SG Tushar Mehta before the bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala. 

"Convicts do not qualify for premature release as TADA provisions had been invoked against them,” SG Mehta said pursuant to CJI’s query whether the convicts are eligible to be released as per the state’s premature release policy. 

Opposing their appeal, Mehta also told the bench that the case fell into the category of 'rarest of rare' since it involved the death of 59 people. 

"This is the case where 59 people were burnt alive. It is consistent that the bogey was locked from the outside. The 59 people who died included ladies and children. See the first convict who has challenged the sentence. He was identified in Test Identification Parade. He was pelting stones with the motive of not letting passengers come out. Second, his role is also clear. In the third convict's case, the distinction is that a deadly weapon was found on him. The fourth one, he played an active role, in hatching the conspiracy. He purchased petrol, stored petrol, carried petrol and used the petrol for the purpose of burning. We will be pressing that this is the rarest of the rare cases- 59 people died,” Mehta further said. 

Considering Mehta’s contention, the bench while directing the applicants and state‘s counsel to prepare a chart of the accused with relevant details posted the pleas after three weeks. 

 Court’s order was passed while dealing with a plea which was preferred against Gujarat HC’s 2017 verdict that had appraised the conviction of the convicts. The HC had commuted the death sentence which was awarded to 11 convicts in the Godhra train burning case to life imprisonment. 

On February 27, 2002, 59 people were killed when the S-6 coach of the train was burnt at Gujarat's Godhra, triggering riots in the state.

The state government has come in appeal against the commutation of death penalty into life term for 11 convicts, Mehta said.

Several accused, he added, have filed pleas against the high court upholding their convictions in the case.

The top court has granted bail to two convicts in the case so far. Seven other bail pleas are pending adjudication in the matter.

The bench noted that a large number of bail applications have been filed before it in the case and said, "It has been agreed that the AORs (advocate-on records) on behalf of applicants along with advocate Swati Ghildiyal, standing counsel for Gujarat, shall prepare a comprehensive chart with all relevant details."

List after three weeks

On January 30, the Supreme Court sought the Gujarat government's response on the bail pleas of some convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the case.

The court issued notice to the state government on the bail pleas of Abdul Raheman Dhantia alias Kankatto, Abdul Sattar Ibrahim Gaddi Asla and others.

The state government, on the other hand, said it was not "merely a stone pelting" case as the convicts had bolted a bogey of the Sabarmati Express, leading to the death of several passengers on the train.

"Some are saying their role was just stone pelting. But when you lock a bogey from outside, light it on fire and then pelt stones, it is not just stone pelting," the solicitor general had said.

On December 15, last year, the top court granted bail to Faruk, who was serving a life sentence in the case and noted that he had been in jail for 17 years.

Faruk, along with several others, was convicted for pelting stones at a coach of the Sabarmati Express.

(With inputs from PTI)


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