The Gujarat High Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts to life imprisonment. The accused had challenged their conviction by a special SIT court in the 2002 Godhra train coach burning case. The court upheld the conviction of 20 accused in the case. The court directed the government and railways to pay Rs 10 lakh each to families of those killed in the burning case.
The high court observed that the state government and railways had failed to maintain law and order, and directed them to pay compensation to the kin of victims. Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express was torched on February 27, 2002 near the Godhra station, resulting in the death of 59 people, most of them 'karsevaks' returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The incident triggered communal riots across Gujarat, in which around 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. A division bench of Justices Anant S Dave and G RUdhwani said in today's verdict that it was upholding the conviction of the 11 persons whom the trial court had sentenced to death, but commuting their punishment to"rigorous life imprisonment".
The court also upheld the life sentence awarded by the special SIT court to 20 other convicts. While ordering the state and the railways to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of those killed in the Godhra incident, the high court observed that "the state has failed to maintain law and order, so has the railways". Those injured in the incident should be given compensation as per the disabilities they suffered, the court said.