Godhra train carnage: One accused convicted, sentenced to life term
A special court of the Special Investigation Team in Gujarat on Wednesday convicted a man accused in the the 2002 Godhra train carnage case and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Yakub Pataliya was accused of being a part of the mob that torched the coaches of Sabarmati Express near the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, killing 59 ‘karsevaks’ (religious volunteers) and triggering state-wide riots.
Special SIT judge H C Vora pronounced the verdict and sentence at Sabarmati Central Jail where the special court was set up.
Special Public Prosecutor Narendra Prajapati said he had argued that Pataliya had helped the conspirators, based on the eye-witness accounts of two persons. “It was established during the trial that the accused rushed to S-6 coach, after the chain was pulled, and broke windows and facilitated the other conspirators to enter and empty 140 litres of petrol, leading to the massacre,” said Prajapati.
The prosecutor said that they had sought capital punishment for the accused as he had helped the conspirators commit mass murder in what is considered among the “rarest of rare” cases. However, the court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment. “We can approach the High Court now for a higher punishment, supported well by evidence and related documents,” he added.
Pataliya’s lawyer Yusuf Charkha said he would file an appeal in the Gujarat High Court. “I am yet to see the written order of the court,” he said. “It is expected by tomorrow and we plan to file an appeal within the next 15 to 20 days.”
Speaking of the depositions of the two eyewitnesses Ajay Kanu Baria and Sikander Siddique Shaikh, Charkha said there were some discrepancies in their statements. “Sikander had recorded his statements nearly one-and-half years after the incident while Baria went to the police and recorded his statement only on July 4, 2002,” he said. “As per their recorded statements, they had seen the accused breaking windows of the train. However, during their deposition, they said they saw him pelting stones at the S-2 coach and further inferred that he must have also pelted stones at the S-6 coach.”
With Pataliya found guilty, the number of people convicted by the special SIT court in the Godhra train burning case now stands at 32. Pataliya was arrested by the Godhra police only in January 2018 as he had been absconding for 16 years.
On March 1, 2011, the special SIT court convicted 31 people in the case and later awarded the death sentence to 11 of them and life imprisonment to the 20 others. However, the Gujarat High Court in October 2017 commuted the death sentence of the 11 convicts to life imprisonment while upholding the punishment awarded by the special SIT court to the 20 others. The special court sentenced two men-Farooq Bhana and Imran Sheri-to life imprisonment in August last year and acquitted three others, identified as Hussain Suleman Mohan, Kasam Bhamedi and Faruk Dhantiya, all of whom were arrested after 2011.
Eight accused are still at large.
With PTI inputs