A special trial court on Monday sentenced 21 people to life imprisonment after holding them guilty of attempt to murder and arson in the post-Godhra Deepda Darwaza riots case in Gujarat.
The court in Mehsana district, however, dropped charges of murder and criminal conspiracy against the 21 convicts and acquitted 61 accused including former BJP MLA Prahlad Patel, who got the benefit of the doubt. Former police inspector MK Patel, the first investigating officer in the case, was awarded a one-year jail term by the court for dereliction of duty.
Those convicted were fined between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 10,000, while the former police officer was fined Rs. 150.
On February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra carnage, rioters had hacked 11 members of a family including two children to death in Deepda Darwaza area of Visnagar town in Mehsana district in north Gujarat.
The Deepda Darwaza massacre is one of the nine cases, including the Godhra train burning, investigated by the Special Investigation Team on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Rights activist Teesta Setalwad, whose NGO Citzens for Justice and Peace is fighting for justice for the riots victims, said the SC’s monitoring of the case led to the convictions.
Yousuf Khan Pathan, a relative of the victims, however, was unhappy over the quantum of sentence awarded to the guilty and acquittal of others. Khan said he would challenge the verdict. “I am not satisfied that the murder charges have been dropped. I saw my family members killed in front of my eyes,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)