Gulberg massacre case: Court seeks jail records of convicts

Ahmedabad : Special Sessions Court Judge P.B. Desai, who was on Friday expected to pronounce the sentencing in the sensational 2002 Gulberg Society massacre, asked the Special Investigation Team to produce the jail records of each of the convicts by Monday when he is likely to fix the final date for ordering the quantum of punishment in the case.

This follows the arguments by the defence lawyers who sought for convicts an opportunity to reform by citing their clean record when in jail as well as during the bail period. Counsel added the convicts have had no criminal antecedents either before the massacre or later.

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Citing court verdicts, defence lawyer Abhay Bhardwaj argued that when even terrorists have been in the past given time and opportunity for reform, why should a similar criterion not apply in this case, especially when the convicts were not involved in any crime earlier and that their conduct under custody was without blemish.

The arguments on the quantum of punishment to the 24 convicts of the Gulberg Society massacre — in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed — concluded on Friday but the court called for jail records of the convicts before it on June 13 when it is likely to fix the actual date for pronouncement of the punishment.

During the final arguments, SIT counsel R.C. Kodekar reiterated his earlier stance and sought capital punishment or at least life term for the 11 of the 24 convicts who were held guilty of murder, terming it a rarest of rare incident.

He also countered defence counsel’s argument that the incident was a reaction to an earlier action (Godhra train burning) and that there was no scope of revenge in the Indian culture.

To the submission by the defence lawyer that the mob attacked the Gulberg Society provoked by firing by former MP Jafri, the prosecution and the advocate for the victims and survivors forcefully argued that a menacing mob of over 10,000 people had gathered outside the housing society with a well-decided plan to kill innocent people.

“Where is the question of firing by Jafri in a volatile situation like this? There are no eye witnesses for Jafri’s firing,” said S.M. Vora, advocate for the victims.

The point of compensation to the victims also came up during the hearing when defence counsel said the convicts were mostly poor people who were unable to pay it.

Following the court’s order on Thursday, the convicts were not physically presented before the court on Friday.

The court had on June 2 held 24 of the total 66 accused guilty while acquitted the remaining 36. Six had died during the trial. The court had fixed hearing on the quantum of punishment on June 6 which continued till Thursday and adjourned yet again till Friday.