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Godhra train burning case: SC grants bail to life convict, considers 17 years sentence
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha pointed out that the convict has been behind bars for 17 years when his role was that of pelting stones at the train
The Supreme Court on Thursday granted bail to Faruk, who is one of the thirty-one convicts in the Godhra train burning incident of February 2002 which reportedly led to the communal riots in Gujarat.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha pointed out that the convict has been behind bars for 17 years when his role was that of pelting stones at the train.
“In the facts of the case, the application of bail made by Faruk, accused no. 4, is granted. The applicant was convicted of offences punishable under Section 302 IPC and sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life. The High Court dismissed his appeal on 9th October 2017. The applicant has sought bail on the ground that he has been in custody since 2004 and has undergone imprisonment for about 17 years,” stated the bench.
Appearing for the state, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said the case was not that of “mere stone pelting”, but that of instigating others as a result of which passengers were injured and were prevented from leaving the burning train.”“Under normal circumstances, pelting of stones may be a less grave of an offence. But this is different,” added Mehta.
Mehta also requested the court to list all appeals for final hearing including appeals filed by the state for enhancement of sentence. The court accepted his request. “This is one of the most heinous offences. Fifty-nine people were burnt alive by halting the door of the (train) bogey. The matter is ripe for final hearing. Now your lordships have special benches for timed hearings as well. This can be listed as one of the matters.”
Chandrachud asked Mehta to request his junior to prepare a statement of the appeals of groups and give it to the registrar Puneet Sehgal. “I will examine and place it appropriately,” added Chandrachud.
On February 27, 2002, four coaches of the Sabarmati Express carrying pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, were set on fire allegedly by a mob comprising Muslim men. This had triggered widespread riots in Gujarat resulting in the death of more than 2,000. More than 100 people were arrested and tried in relation to the train burning incident.
The trial court in February 2011 convicted 31 and acquitted 63. Eleven of them were given death sentence while the remaining 20 were given life imprisonment. Subsequently, on appeal, the Gujarat High Court in October 2017 upheld the conviction of all but commuted the death sentence of the 11 to life imprisonment. The appeals filed by the convicts in the Supreme Court are pending since 2018.
On 13 May 2022, the Court had granted one of the convicts, Abdul Raheman Dhantiya, interim bail for six months on the grounds that his wife was suffering from terminal cancer and that his daughters were mentally challenged. On 11 November 11 2022, the court extended his bail till March 31, 2023.
The crime which took place on February 27, 2002, resulted in the killing of 58 persons in a fire inside the S-6 coach of Sabarmati express which was carrying kar sevaks from Ayodhya. The Godhra carnage triggered communal riots in Gujarat.