Godhra train carnage verdict today

Ahmedabad: Nine years after torching of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra station that left 58 people dead, a Special Court here is set to deliver on Tuesday its judgement against 94 accused in the carnage that had triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat.

Designated Judge P R Patel, who had completed hearing arguments of the prosecution and defence in September last year, will pronounce the judgement in the sensitive case.

After completion of the hearing, the verdict could not be delivered in view of a Supreme Court stay, which was lifted on October 26, 2010.

The trial, conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail here, began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 94 accused, who are in the high-security prison since 2002.

The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in burning of the S-6 coach of the train on February 27, 2002 near Godhra, about 125 km from here. Most of the deceased were karsevaks returning from Ayodhya.

Following the incident, widespread communal riots broke out in various parts of the state in which over 1,000 people, mostly from the minority community, were killed.

As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the trial and over 1500 documentary evidences were presented before the court by the Gujarat police.

Initially there were 107 accused, of which five died during the pendency of the case, while eight others were juveniles, who were tried by a separate court.

Police have made elaborate security arrangements to maintain peace after judgement is pronounced.

The alleged prime conspirators in the case include Maulvi Ummarji, Rajjab Kurkur, Nanumiya and Salim Yusuf Sattar Jarda.

Salim Panwala, the prime accused in the case, is absconding and is believed to be in Pakistan. Other accused include Jabir Behra, who has made a confessional statement under POTA, Mohmmad Latika and Hasan Lalu.

According to the prosecution, the accused hatched the conspiracy to torch the train in a guest house in Godhra. They decided to execute the plan near A Cabin as it was a minority dominated area.

Prosecution had slapped Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against the accused, but it was later revoked by Pota Review Committee.

The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the State Government to probe the carnage, had in the first part of the report concluded that the fire in the S6 coach was not an accident, but it was caused by throwing petrol inside it.

"The burning of the coach S6 was a pre-planned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the karsevaks travelling in it," the report, submitted to the Government in September 2008, said.

Meanwhile, police said vigil shall be intensified in all the sensitive points in the city.

"Close to 10,000 police personnel, including those from State Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force will be deployed to maintain peace," a police officer said.