Ahmedabad, June 9 (IANS) Hearing on the quantum of punishment to the 24 convicts in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre here which left killed 69 persons, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, remained inconclusive on Thursday, and the court adjourned it again for Friday.
This is the second time after June 6 that the pronouncing of the sentence to the convicts has been put off with prosecution calling for strictest punishment to the guilty and defence counsel arguing for lighter sentence and an opportunity for them to reform.
The special SIT Court of Judge P.B. Desai directed that the convicts need not be physically present in the court on Friday and, if need be they could be presented through video conferencing from the Sabarmati Jail where they are lodged.
During the arguments, the prosecution stuck to its stand that the convicts be awarded maximum sentence for the mass murder while defence counsel argued that the convicts, the 11 held guilty of murder, should not be given capital punishment.
Citing a Supreme Court judgement, defence lawyer Abhay Bhardwaj said that since the convicts never tried to tamper with the evidence nor did they commit any crime during their bail period, they should be given an opportunity to reform.
The defence lawyer forcefully argued that the court should take into consideration that the attack on the Gulberg Society was provoked by private firing by Ehsan Jafri, in which one person was killed and several others injured. According to him, Jafri was the key culprit for the unfortunate massacre.
On June 2, the court held 24 of the total 66 accused guilty while acquitted the remaining 36. Six accused died during the trial. Of the 24 convicts, 11 were adjudged guilty of various charges, including murder. One person was found guilty of attempt to murder, and remaining 12, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, were held guilty of lesser charges like rioting and unlawful assembly.
Special Investigation Team (SIT) counsel R.C. Kodekar, during the argument on the previous date of hearing on June 6, demanded appropriate strict sentence for the convicts while advocate for the survivors and victims S.M. Vora sought strictest punishment and compensation for the victims.
Significantly, the court had dropped the charges of criminal conspiracy under Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code in the case against the accused persons.