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2002 Naroda case: Gujarat HC awards 10-year rigorous imprisonment to 3 convicts

PTI | Ahemdabad |

The Gujarat High Court on Monday awarded 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment to three convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, observing that their punishment must be consistent with the brutality of the crime.

The three of the total 16 accused were held guilty in an order pronounced on April 20.

A division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia awarded 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment to the three convicts in the case — P J Rajput, Rajkumar Chaumal and Umesh Bharwad.

After their conviction on April 20 by the same court, the trio had sought a further hearing on their quantum of sentence on the ground that they were not properly represented.

Pronouncing the sentence today, the court gave them six weeks’ time to surrender before the police.

In its order on the quantum of sentence, the court observed that the crimes committed by them were against society, and their punishment must be consistent with the brutality with which the crime was committed.

The three were held guilty of crimes other than that of murder, with a maximum punishment of life sentence or 10 years attracted under IPC section 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house).

“The court cannot set aside the agony and anguish of the victims… Offences are not against individuals but society at large and have consequences of polarising society,” the bench observed.

“Imposing too lenient a sentence would amount to a travesty of justice…Imposition of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment would be adequate punishment,” the court held.

The court further observed that any liberal attitude with respect to such offences would be “counter-productive” and “against the interest of society.”

Earlier, in their submissions, the three convicts had appealed for a reduction of sentence, stating that the court has discretion for the minimum sentence.

The SIT and the state government, in their submissions, sought maximum punishment looking at the offence.

All the three were acquitted by the special SIT court.

However, while hearing appeals, the high court had found them guilty on April 20, even as it upheld the acquittal of 29 others.

In its order on appeals in the case on April 20, the high court had convicted 16 people, including the Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and acquitted 18 others, among them, being former BJP minister Maya Kodnani.

Out of 13 of these convicts (barring the three sentenced today), all except one were sentenced to 21 years’ rigorous imprisonment, while one convict was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The court had deferred the order on quantum of sentence for the other three convicts which were announced today.

Out of the total 61 accused in the case, the special SIT court had in August 2012 held 32 guilties, and acquitted 29 others.

A mob had killed 97 people, most of them from a minority community, in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, a day after the torching of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, which triggered state-wide riots.