The Gujarat High Court on Thursday upheld the life imprisonment terms of 17 people while it acquitted 14 more convicted earlier for the 2002 Sardarpura riots case, Indian Express has reported.
The bench acquitted the 14 convicted in the case on the grounds of lack of evidence and contradictions in witness accounts. It cited the “two-witness test” prescribed by the Supreme Court as the basis for its acquittal. Eleven people were given “benefit of doubt”, while three got clean chit, the report said.
A division bench of Justice Harsha Devani and Justice Biren Vaishnav, however, confirmed the life imprisonment of 17 others. The high court acquitted the 14 due to lack of evidence and contradiction in witnesses account.
The HC also upheld the decision of lower court to not accept the “conspiracy theory” put up by the prosecution, which had alleged that the attack on minority community was pre-planned and a conspiracy was hatched following the Godhra train burning incident.
On February 28, 2002, hundreds of people surrounded the Sheikh Vaas lane in Sardarpura and the mob burnt the house of a man where some victims had taken shelter. Police had arrested 76 persons in the case, of whom two died during the trial, while one was a minor at the time. Charges were framed against 73 accused in June 2009.
Special judge for SIT cases SC Srivastava sentenced 31 persons to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on each of them, while acquitting the rest on November 9, 2011.