The Gujarat high court on Friday appointed a special judge to conduct the trial of an accused in the 2002 Godhra train burning case who was arrested after the judgement in the matter was pronounced.
Judge CR Thakkar will conduct the trial of Ibrahim Chunga, who was arrested on March 2, a day after the special court in Ahmedabad pronounced the verdict awarding death sentence to 11 accused and life imprisonment for 20 others.
Chunga had been evading arrest and was shown as an absconding accused in the charge sheet filed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the nine-year-old incident in which 59 people, mostly karsevaks, were killed when the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set on fire by a mob on February 27, 2002 near Godhra station.
The notification appointing judge Thakkar was issued after the question regarding jurisdiction of courts arose when Chunga filed a bail application in May in the Panchmahal district (where Godhra falls) court.
The matter came before principal district judge of the Panchmahal court, who recused himself from hearing, saying the apex court had ordered setting up of designated special court for hearing the Godhra and other cases probed by the SIT.
The SC, in its order, had also maintained that trial in the train burning case was to take place inside the high security Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.
Trial was conducted against a total of 94 accused, of which 31 were convicted and 63 others acquitted by the special court.
After the long-awaited judgement was delivered and following the arrest of Chunga, questions arose about where will his trial take place, in Godhra or in Sabarmati Jail.
In absence of any notification by the high court, and judge PR Patel, who delivered the verdict, being transfered as registrar in the high court, SIT had approached the HC for appointment of a special judge.
In light of this, the high court appointed judge Thakkar to preside over the trial of Chunga.
According to the police, Chunga was part of the mob which had torched the train.