High Court upholds Godhra train conviction, reduces sentence


The Gujarat high court (HC) on Monday reduced to "life in prison" the death sentence given to 11 convicts in the 2002 Godhra train burning case. It has, however, upheld the life sentence to 20 other convicts. "As per past judgments of the Supreme Court life imprisonment means a convict has to remain in jail till his life", said JM Panchal, senior counsel who appeared for SIT. The court gave relief to 59 victims by ordering state government and railway authority to give them compensation of Rs 10 Lakh to kin of each and decide quantum of compensation for more than 200 injured persons.

The inquiry had concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express in which 59 people, mostly "kar sevaks" returning from Ayodhya were travelling, was not an accident. The incident had triggered large-scale riots in Gujarat in which around, reportedly, 1,000 people were killed. The hearing in the case went on for 29 months and the media was kept out of the courtroom throughout the hearing.

Later, several appeals were filed in the high court challenging the convictions, while the Gujarat government questioned the acquittal of the 63 people. This was challenged in the Gujarat High Court, which heard the petition and kept its sentence reserved for last two-and-a-half years.

The Gujarat government had appointed the Nanavati Commission to probe the train burning incient. As the train started leaving the station, someone pulled the chains just outside the railway station. After stone-pelting, they locked the doors of the S6 coach from outside, poured petrol inside and set it on fire.

Godhra: Burnt bogies of Sabarmati Express train.

According to police investigation, Aman Guest house owner Abdul Razak Kurkur had procured 60 litre patrol from a fuel pump on February 26.