August 27 : A special trial court on Monday sentenced two persons to life imprisonment and acquitted three others in connection with the 2002 Sabarmati Express train burning case at Godhra railway station that led to widespread communal riots in Gujarat.
Farukh Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Batik have been convicted for conspiracy and was sentenced to life imprisonment while three others including Hussain Suleman Mohan, Kasam Bhamedi and Faruk Dhantiya have been acquitted.
The five accused were arrested by different agencies in 2015-16 and were put on trial by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The five persons put on trial were Hussain Suleman Mohan, Kasam Bhamedi, Faruk Dhantiya, Faruk Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Bhatuk, all of whom are residents of Godhra, Gujarat.
Fifty-nine people travelling in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were burnt alive at the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.
In October last year, the Gujarat High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to 11 convicts to life term while upholding the life sentence awarded to 20 others by the special SIT court in 2011.
The special SIT court on March 1, 2011, convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 in the case. While 11 people were sentenced to death, 20 were handed out life imprisonment.
All the 31 were convicted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code related to murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy. Those acquitted included prime accused Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh.
There were SIT probes into the involvement of several political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who was then the Gujarat chief minister – for criminal conspiracy in the riots. Modi and others were cleared after the SIT filed a closure report on February 8, 2012.
Maya Kodnani, the women and child welfare minister in the then Modi government in Gujarat, was sentenced to life in prison for a separate case of rioting in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya area. She has been on bail since 2014.