Ahead of the second-phase voting in Gujarat, the state’s BJP government on Friday refused to take a lenient view on giving bail to convicts in the 2002 Godhra train-burning case that had triggered communal riots. This came in the backdrop of the Supreme Court saying that some of those convicted were stone-pelters and had already spent long years in jail. The convicts’ appeal has been pending in the SC since 2018.
When a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha said that the convicts had been in prison for 17-18 years and the court would consider granting bail at least to those accused of pelting stones, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said it was not a case of mere stone pelting as the action prevented victims from escaping the burning coach.
Mehta, however, assured the court that he would examine the role of each of the convicts and inform the court whether some of them could be released on bail, provided their role was very minor. The SC has asked the SG to submit his views on December 15.
The Gujarat HC in 2017 had commuted the death sentences of 11 to life imprisonment and upheld life sentences to 20 more and the acquittals of 63 accused in the case in which 59 Hindu pilgrims — 29 men, 22 women and eight children — had died after a coach of the Sabarmati Express train was set afire near Godhra station on February 27, 2002.