“The main motive was to take revenge on the Muslim community,” noted special fast-track court judge SC Srivastav while convicting 31 persons in the Sardarpura massacre, in which 33 Muslims were killed on March 1, 2002. “This motive is proved from evidence,” the judge further said.
Along with the Best Bakery, Bilkis Bano and Godhra cases, this is one in which justice has been done. Considering the abysmal rate of conviction in cases related to communal riots, the verdict, given in November 2011, was hailed as rare.
“This is perhaps for the first time in communal riots cases that such a large number of the accused were convicted,” activist Teesta Setalvad said after the verdict.
All the convicts were awarded life imprisonment and 26 of them were ordered to pay a fine of Rs21,700 each and the remaining five Rs23,700 each. The court also ordered them to shell out Rs50,000 each as compensation for the victims, and the money is to be distributed equally among the survivors.In all, 76 persons were arrested. Of them, two died while the case was on and one is a minor facing trial in a juvenile court. The court had framed charges against 73 accused in June 2009 and initiated trial in the case. Sardarpura was one of the cases for which the Supreme Court had set up an SIT to re-investigate the case and a special fast-track court was created to expedite the trial.
While convicting the 31 accused, the judge rejected their defence that they did not have the intention of killing. Simultaneously, the judge also rejected the contention of the prosecution that the incident was a result of a conspiracy hatched previously.
The trial court judge had cleared Setalvad of the charge of tutoring witnesses. “Her motive was not wrong. She helped victims face questions in court,” the court observed.
Among those convicted were the then sarpanch of the village, Kachrabhai Tribhovandas Patel, and ex-sarpanch Kanubhai Joitaram Patel. Thirty of the 31 convicted belonged to Patel community while one belonged to Prajapati community.