A special Ahmedabad court on Friday sentenced 11 people convicted in the Gulberg Society massacre case to life in prison and gave 12 others seven years in jail, ANI reported. One other convict was given 10 years in prison.
The bench said that a large number of accused have been out on bail, but that there were no complaints of them committing any offences. Those denied bail were granted temporary bail, and they too did not do anything to indicate they were a menace to society, the judge said. The bench also recommended that the state not remit any of the life sentences.
Relatives of those killed in the incident have criticised the sentences and expressed their disappointment. While the prosecution had sought death penalty or life imprisonment for the convicts, the defence lawyer had argued for minimum punishment, saying eight witnesses were unable to recognise the convicts. Special public prosecutor RC Kodekar said the gravity of the crime was heinous as the victims were “roasted alive” without provocation.
On June 2, the court convicted 24 and acquitted 36 in the case. Among those given a clean chit were Bharatiya Janata Party corporator Bipin Patel, as well as the police officer who had lodged the first FIR in the case but was later included in the list of accused. While 11 of the 24 convicted were charged with murder, 13 others, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya were convicted for lesser offences.
In 2002, a mob of nearly 20,000 people attacked and killed 69 Muslims, including Congress legislator Ehsan Jafri, in the Ahmedabad neighbourhood. The horrific incident took place a day after 59 people, mainly Hindu pilgrims, died when the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in Godhra.