AHMEDABAD, Feb 22 � Upholding the theory of conspiracy, a special court today convicted 31 persons and acquitted 63 others, including key accused Maulvi Hussain Umarji, in the Godhra train carnage that killed 59 kar sewaks and triggered a mayhem in Gujarat that claimed over 1,200 lives, mainly Muslims, 9 years ago, reports PTI.
After a less than two-year trial conducted inside the Sabarmati Central jail here, Special Judge P R Patel accepted the conspiracy theory that contrasts the finding of a Commission of Enquiry appointed by former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad which had held that the burning of Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on Feb 27, 2002 was accidental.
The quantum of punishment would be announced on February 25 after hearing the 31 convicted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) like 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120-B(criminal conspiracy).
Today�s judgement immediately sparked a war of words between the BJP, which is ruling Gujarat and whose Chief Minister Narendra Modi earned a lot of flak over the large-scale violence in post-Godhra.
The BJP claimed it was a vindication of its stand that the train carnage was a conspiracy while Congress said it does not wash the mass killings that followed Godhra.
Former CBI chief, who heads the Special Investigating Team (SIT) that took over investigation into Godhra incident and either other cases of post-Godhra riots, expressed satisfaction over the judgement.
Maintaining that the SIT would try to get justice in the other cases too, he hinted at challenging the acquittal in the train case in a higher court.
Special Public Prosecutor in the case J M Panchal said the motive behind the conspiracy was to target the Karsevaks who were involved in the Ayodhya movement.
Scientific evidence, statement of witnesses, circumstantial and documentary evidence placed on record formed the basis of the over 850 page judgement.
The trial began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 94 accused in the carnage.
�Petrol was brought and the train was made to stop. Electricity was then cut and there was pouring of huge quantity of petrol and thereafter it was set afire so far as S-6 coach is concerned,� Panchal said replying to a query on prosecution�s theory of conspiracy.
On acquittal of Maulvi Umarji, who was projected as the prime conspirator, Panchal said that the court was not convinced with the evidence against him and did not find it fit enough to convict him in the case.
The other key accused, who are acquitted include Mohammad Hussain Kalota, who was President of the Godhra Municipality at that time, Mohammad Ansari and Nanumiya Chaudhary of Gangapur Uttar Pradesh.
The conspirators who were found guilt by the court include Haji Bilal, Abdul Razak Kurkur, Jabir Behra, Salim Zarda and Mehbub Hasan alias Latiko.
Defence lawyer A A Hasan said that court has agreed with the prosecution theory that the fire in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was not accidental.
The conviction was also based on statements of two employees of the petrol pump near the railway station who had name accused who had bought petrol from them, he said.
The court has also relied on statements of about nine witness recorded under Cr.PC 164 before a magistrate, to come to the conclusion that this was a conspiracy, Hassan said.