Godhra train carnage: HC spares the noose for 11 convicts

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The Gujarat high court is likely to pronounce its verdict on a set of appeals challenging convictions and acquittals by a Special Investigation Team court in the 2002 Godhra train burning case on Monday, more than two years after the completion of hearings on the matter. Out of 31 convicts, 11 are awarded death penalty and rest 20 are given sentenced to life imprisonment. It directed the State to pay Rs 10 lakh to the families of the 59 victims, mostly kar sevaks, killed in the incident.

At least 59 people had lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was torched at the Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002. The High Court today has refused to change that verdict.

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The 11 convicts that had been sentenced to deaths are Abdul Razzak Kurkur, Ismail Suleja, Jabbir Benyamin Behra, Ramzani Binyamin Behra, Mehboob Hassan alias Latiko, Siraj Bala, Irfan Kalandar, Irfan Patadia, Hassan Lalu, Mehboob Chanda and Salim Zarda. Most of the people burnt in the attack were "kar sevaks", which triggered communal riots in Gujarat.

Twenty other convicts will remain sentenced to life in jail, the high court court ruled. The Commission said it was set on fire. Those acquitted included prime accused Maulana Umarji, the then president of Godhra municipality Mohammad Hussain Kalota, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur, Uttar Pradesh. The accused were convicted under the murder and conspiracy provisions of Sections 302 and 120B of the IPC respectively and some sections of the Railway Act and Police Act.

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A commission appointed by the central government, whose appointment was later held to be unconstitutional, stated that the fire had been an accident.

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