Gujarat High Court on Monday commuted death sentence of 11 convicts of Godhra train burning incident to lifetime imprisonment. The court also upheld life term of 20 others and observed that the state had failed to maintain law and order and asked it to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the victims of kin. The verdict has come nearly two years after conclusion of hearing in the matter.
On February 26, 2001, Sabarmati Express’ coach S6 was torched by a Muslim mob near the Godhra railway station, which resulted in death of 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya after performing a religious ceremony at the Babri Masjid disputed site. A Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory report had stated that 60 liters of inflammable liquid was poured into the train with the help of a wide mouthed container. The report added that heavy stone pelting had also taken place in the train. The police investigation also revealed that owner of Aman Guest house, Abdul Razak Kurkur had arranged 60-litre patrol a day before the incident.
31 people were pronounced guilty by the trial court in 2011 for the barbaric incident out of which 11 persons were awarded death penalty and the remaining 20 were given life imprisonment. 63 others including the mastermind of the attack Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra Municipality were acquitted by the court. Following this, several appeals were filed in the HC challenging the conviction.
Gujarat train burning incident had sparked communal violence in the state in which more than 1,000 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured. The sporadic violence that lasted for around two months, also left more than 50,000 people displaced in the state as per civil rights activists. Following the carnage, Gujarat government had appointed the Nanavati Commission to launch a probe into Godhra train burning incident. The Commission had concluded that fire in S6 coach of Sabarmati Express was not an accident, but it was torched charring passengers to death.