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Godhra train carnage: Accused complete 7 years in jail, trial yet to start

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,

New Delhi: This day seven years ago, the coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya with hundreds of karsevaks, was burnt from inside killing 58 people near Godhra Railway Station, followed by the most heinous communal riots in Gujarat, killing about 2000 Muslims and displacing lakhs others.

The BJP-ruled state government of Narendra Modi made more than 100 Godhra Muslims as accused of conspiring and executing the train fire, and slapped Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against them. The accused, who say they are innocents, have completed seven years in jail but the trial is yet to take off.

Talking to TwoCircles.net today on the 7th anniversary of the gruesome incident, Gujarat High Court advocate Mukul Sinha, who single-handedly took on the state government and successfully fought against the application of POTA against the accused, said: “After spending full seven years in jail the only big relief the train carnage accused got is the orders of Supreme Court and Gujarat High Court against the application of POTA in the case.”

In total the state government had made 134 people accused in the Godhra train burning case. Of them 116 people were arrested. While 13 of them were summarily discharged for being too old or too young or lack of evidence, 19 were released on bail. Four of those arrested have died. Today 80 people are still languishing in the jail in that case.

The Nanavati Commission constituted by the Gujarat government to probe the Godhra train incident had termed it as a conspiracy.

In the last six months, however, all the doors for applying POTA on the accused have been closed on the state government.

On this February 12, the Gujarat High Court gave verdict that the Godhra train burning was not an act of terrorism, so POTA cannot be applied. The court dismissed a petition challenging the Central POTA Review Committee’s recommendation of dropping POTA charges against the accused.

In December last year, the Supreme Court had also ordered that all the proceedings in connection with the Godhra train carnage case should be transferred to the Godhra sessions court.

In October that year, the Supreme Court had held that the findings of the Central POTA Review Committee to drop the charges under the repealed law would be binding on the government and the designated court. The apex court passed the verdict on a bunch of petitions filed by family members of Godhra train carnage accused.

“The matter now should go to the special POTA court and from there it should be transferred to ordinary sessions court. The case was not started yet as the Supreme Court had stayed the POTA court proceeding in this case,” said former scientist with Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) turned lawyer Mukul Sinha.

Now the cases will be trialed under ordinary IPC provisions in a sessions court and the chances of the accused getting bail are now higher, he added.