By Raunak Doshi
India, which has a long standing history of confluence of cultures and schools of thoughts, unfortunately has faced the vice of communal violence in fits and starts. One of the worst such incidents of communal violence in recent times was the Godhra Riots of 2002.
The principle and immediate cause of the same can be attributed to the Godhra Train Burning Incident of 2002. In the instant article, the socio political condition prevailing the incident would be discussed upon.
Furthermore, the legal aspect of the entire dispute would be taken into account, ranging from the Trial and the ultimate outcome of the court proceedings.
On 27 February 2002, a train called Sabarmati Express reached Godhra at around 8 am in the morning. The train was stopped at the platform by pulling the chain from inside, and was soon after attacked by a mob of 2,000 people, mostly belonging to the Muslim Community.
As a result of which, four boggies were fired up which led to around 59 people being burnt to death. This incident incited a lot of anger and hatred in the minds of the people belonging to other communities, especially Hindus, against the whole Muslim society.
A total of 8 major case laws are related to the incident of Gujarat Riots:
Naroda Patiya Case (Babubhai Rajabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat | Criminal Appeal No. 1710 of 2012)
The Naroda Patiya massacre took place on 28 February 2002 at Naroda. 97 Muslims were killed by a mob of approximately 5,000 people, organised by the Bajrang Dal, a wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad.
The massacre at Naroda occurred during the bandh (strike) called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad a day after the Godhra train burning. The communal violence at Naroda was deemed “the largest single case of mass murder” during the 2002 Gujarat riots
The original case in the Trial court had 61 accused. In August 2012, the special SIT court in its judgement found 32 guilty and acquitted 29.
The accused appealed Gujarat High court. On 20 April 2018 judgment on the appeals, the High court convicted 16 persons, including Babu Bajrangi.
High Court acquitted 18 others including former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani, who was tried as the main accused by the trial court.
Out of 13 of these convicts, three were sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment, nine were handed 21 years of rigorous imprisonment and one was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Sardarpura Case (Prahaladbhai Jagabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat | 2020 SCC OnLine SC 109)
On February 28, 2002, in Sardarpura, a mob comprising local Hindus burnt kiosks owned by Muslims. The very next day, mob reappeared and killed around 33 muslims in the area; they locked all of them in a room and threw acid on them from outside.
They also shoved an iron rod, attached to the loose end of a live wire, inside the room, which electrocuted and killed 29 of them.
The Gujarat High Court on October 20, 2016 upheld the conviction of 17 persons while acquitting 14 persons, who were previously convicted by a trial court, in the post-Godhra Sardarpura massacre case.
On 21st January 2020, the Supreme Court granted bail to 14 convicts who had been sentenced to life imprisonment and were asked by the Court to do social and spiritual services among others during the period of the bail.
Naroda Gaam (CRLMP.NO(s). 3528)
The trial in this case, relating to massacres in the Naroda Gaam area of Ahmedabad, where 11 persons were killed, is still underway.
This is the only case among those re-investigated by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT where the trial is underway.
The special designated court conducting the trial had summoned BJP president Amit Shah to depose before the court as a defence witness on September 18, 2017, to corroborate Dr. Kodnani’s statement.
Kodnani, is one of the accused in the case, was the state’s women and child development minister in former chief minister Narendra Modi’s government. A total of 82 people are facing trial in the case.
Gulberg Society Case (Zakia Ahsan Zafri v. Special Investigation Team | 2017 SCC OnLine Guj 1714)
The Gulberg Society massacre happened on February 28, 2002, when a mob attacked Gulberg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad.
Most of the houses were burnt, and no less than 35 victims, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive, while 31 others were presumed dead, bringing the total death count to 69.
On June 17, 2016, the special court in Ahmedabad pronounced life imprisonment to 11 convicts in this case, while 12 others were awarded seven years in prison.
One person was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. BJP corporator Bipin Patel was among the 36 acquitted in the 2002 Gulbarg Society massacre case by the trial court.
The court also declined the allegations of a “larger conspiracy” behind the post-Godhra riots, including the Gulberg Society massacre, involving politicians like Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Ode Village Case (Harishbhai Vallabhbhai Patel v. State Of Gujarat | R/CR.A/749/2012)
In this case, in which 23 persons were killed in a village near Anand town in central Gujarat on March 1, 2002, the verdict was delivered on April 12, 2012.
The trial court convicted 23 persons while acquitting the same number of accused. Of the 23 convicted, 18 were awarded life imprisonment while the remaining five received seven years imprisonment.
In 2018, the high court upheld the conviction of 19 persons, including 14 who had been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dipda Darwaja Case
A family of 11 persons, including four children and a 65 year-old woman, was killed in a mob attack at a house in the Dipda Darwaja locality at Visnagar town in north Gujarat on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train carnage.
In the verdict delivered by a special court in Mehsana on July 30, 2012, 22 persons were convicted, of which one died during the trial while the remaining 21 were awarded life imprisonment for attempt to murder.
The murder charge and criminal conspiracy could not be proved in the case. Later on, the High Court of Gujarat went on to give conditional bail to all the convicts.
Bilkis Bano Case
On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano, who was then 19 and pregnant, was raped during the riots that broke out in Randhikpur village in Dahod district.
In 2008, a sessions court had awarded life imprisonment to 11 men, of which three were convicted of raping Bilkis.
The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI probe into the case and shifted the trial to Maharashtra.
In 2017, Bombay High Court had on May 4, 2017 convicted seven people — five policemen and two doctors — under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Furthermore, in 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to give Bilkis Bano Rs 50 lakh as compensation, a job and accommodation as well.
Best Bakery (Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh v. State of Gujarat | A.I.R. 2004 Supreme Court 3114)
The Best Bakery, in the Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodara, was attacked by a mob, which burned down the bakery, killing 14 people on March 1, 2002. Of the 17 accused, nine were convicted and sentenced to life by a special court in Mumbai in 2006.
The Supreme Court had ordered a re-trial of this case too, transferring it to Maharashtra. The Bombay High Court set aside the trial court verdict and acquitted five, while upholding the conviction of four in July 2012.