The Gujarat High Court today acquitted 14 persons out of 31 convicted by a lower court and confirmed life sentence of 17 others, in the 2002 post-Godhra Sardarpura massacre case in which 33 people were burnt alive.
A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and Biren Vaishnav confirmed the life imprisonment of 17 persons.
However, 14 of the 31 convicted by the lower court were acquitted by the high court due to lack of evidence and contradiction in witnesses account.
In all, 76 accused were arrested in Sardarpur case by police, out of whom two died during pendency of trial, while one was a juvenile.
The court had framed charges against 73 accused in June 2009 and initiated trial in the case.
Besides the conviction of 31, the lower court had acquitted 42 others. The SIT later challenged in high court the acquittal of 31 persons out of these 42.
However, the HC today upheld the Mehsana district court order acquitting 31 out of these 42.
Meanwhile, the 17 were convicted by high court for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and other sections of IPC.
The HC also upheld the decision of lower court to not accept the “conspiracy theory” put up by the prosecution, which had alleged that the attack on minority community was pre-planned and a conspiracy was hatched following the Godhra train burning incident.
Thirty one persons were earlier awarded life sentence along with a fine of Rs 50,000 each in the verdict passed by special SIT court judge S C Srivastava while hearing the matter on November 9, 2011.
As many as 73 people were made accused in the case, in which 33 people of minority community were burnt to death at Sardarpura in Vijapur taluka of Mehsana district on the night of February 28, 2002, to avenge the Godhra train burning incident in which 59 people, mainly karsevaks, were burnt to death on February 27, 2002.
This was one of the nine post-Godhra riot cases probed by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
A mob of hundreds of people had surrounded a lane, called ‘Sheikh Vaas’, in Sardarpura on the intervening night of February 28 and March 1, 2002, where minority population of the village used to live.
The people of minority community took shelter in a ‘pucca’ house of one Ibrahim Sheikh. However, the mob torched the house after pouring petrol on it, in which 33 people, including 22 women, were charred to death.