Key Gulberg absconder surrenders, sentencing for 24 on June 17

Ahmedabad, June 13 (IANS) A special sessions court here fixed June 17 for pronouncement of quantum of punishment to the 24 convicts of the Gulberg Society massacre in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed on Februay 28, 2002, even as the chief convict in the case, Kailash Dhobi, surrendered before the court on Monday.

The court of Special Judge P.B. Desai, who had on June 10 completed the hearing on the arguments regarding punishment to the perpetrators of the killings, had asked for the jail records of convicts before pronouncing the quantum of punishment. The records were presented to the judge on Monday.

Kailash Dhobi, who was the accused number one in the case and was absconding since January, surrendered before the special court. He was sent to judicial custoday in the Sabarmati Prison.

About the Gulberg judgement, Spwxial Investigating Team (SIT) counsel R.C. Kodekar said the convicts will have to remain physically present on June 17 when the court would pronounce the punishment. The court had earlier exempted the convicts from personal appearance, saying if needed they could be summoned through video conferencing.

Kodekar had sought capital punishment or at least life term for the 11 convicts 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 (February 27, 2002, Godhra train burning), saying that there was no scope for revenge in the Indian culture.

On the other hand, the defence had sought leniency from the court arguing that the incident was provoked by firing by Ehsan Jafri in which one person died and 15 were injured. Defence also argued that the convicts were not professional criminals.

The court had held 24 of the total 66 accused guilty on June 2 while it acquitted the remaining 36. Six had died during the trial. The court had in its order said that hearing on the quantum of punishment would be done from June 6.

Of the 24 convicts, 11 are held guilty under various charges including that of murder while one is found guilty of attempt to murder. The remaining 12, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, have been found guilty under lesser charges like rioting and unlawful assembly.

The court has dropped the charge of criminal conspiracy under Section 120 B in the case.

The Gulberg Society massacre is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat violence probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, during which 58 ‘karsevaks’ were killed.

–IANS

desai/rn/vt

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