2011: A year of important verdicts in Gujarat

Ahmedabad: The year 2011 will be remembered in Gujarat for verdicts related to the Godhra train burning incident and the riots that followed. A trial court awarded death penalty to 11 people and life imprisonment to 20, nine years after the incident in which 59 people, mostly karsevaks died. The carnage triggered riots in the state killing over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Another major verdict came in one of the post-Godhra riots case of Sardarpura village in Mehsana district where the special court sentenced 31 people to life imprisonment. Both these cases were probed by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).

The year also turned out to be one of setbacks for the Narendra Modi government as higher courts transfered probe in three police encounter cases-Tulsi Prajapati, Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal Mehtar, to the CBI, doubting the investigation of the Gujarat Police.

There was also a setback for the CBI in the Haren Pandya murder case, when the high court dropped murder charges against 12 convicted in the case, while coming down heavily on the central agency by calling its investigation "botched up" and "blinkered".

The face off between Gujarat Governor Kamla and Modi also reached the high court over the issue of appointment of Lokayukta.

The year also saw a battery of IPS officers from the state speaking up against the Modi government. These included suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court and deposed before the Nanavati Commission; Rajnish Rai and Rahul Sharma who have approached against the government, while Kuldeep Sharma and Satish Verma have sought recourse from the high court. .

On March 2, 11 people were awarded death penalty and 20 given life imprisonment in the train burning case. Those convicted have challenged the verdict in the high court, while the SIT has also filed petition seeking enhancement of sentence of 20 who got life imprisonment and has challenged the acquittal of 63 others.

On November 9, a special court in Mehsana awarded life imprisonment to 31 people in the 2002 Sardarpuara post-Godhra riot case where 33 people were burnt to death, probably making it a first case of communal riots in the country, where a large number of people have been sentenced.

Out of the total 73 accused in the case, Principal district and sessions judge S C Srivastva, had acquitted 42 people, 11 were freed due to lack of evidence, while 31 others were given the benefit of doubt. This was the first post-Godhra riot case out of the eight, probed by the SIT, on which verdict was pronounced.

On the police encounters, the Gujarat government had to face the first setback on April 8, when the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe into the alleged fake encounter killing of Tulsiram Prajapati, stated to be an eyewitness in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case allegedly involving former state minister Amit Shah. .

The CBI faced flak from the high court for its probe in the 2003 killing of former minister Pandya. The high court dropped charges of murder against 12 people convicted for assassination of Pandya, while upholding the charges of criminal conspiracy and terrorism under POTA against them awarded by the trial court.

Pandya, a former minister of state for home, was shot dead on March 26, 2003, near Law Garden area of the city. CBI had stated in its charge sheet the murder was carried out to avenge the 2002 riots.

Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who fought for riot victims, was named as accused in two cases, by her former aide Rais Khan. In both cases Setalvad obtained anticipatory bail from local courts and stay on criminal proceeding against her from the Supreme Court.

The trials in various riot cases, probed by the SIT have neared its conclusion, with final hearing beginning in some of the cases.