All 35 persons involved in four distinct cases related to the 2002 post -Godhra riots which resulted in the deaths of three people, have been acquitted by a court in Halol town in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district.
In its order of June 12 and subsequently released on June 15, the court of additional sessions judge Harsh Trivedi also criticized pseudo-secular media and politicians for claiming that the riots were planned.
The 35 individuals faced accusations of murder and rioting following the outbreak of violence near the Kalol bus stand, Delol village, and Derol station area on February 28, 2002, just one day after the Godhra train burning incident. Despite the prosecution’s claim that three people were killed using deadly weapons and their bodies subsequently burned to destroy evidence, the court determined that there was a lack of evidence against the accused.
Among the 52 defendants initially involved in the cases, 17 passed away during the prolonged trial period, which lasted over 20 years. According to case records, the police were informed of three missing persons during their visits to relief camps established in response to the riots that erupted in the area. Allegations were made that riots had occurred between Hindus and Muslims in Kalol town and two other locations. A few days later, the bodies of three missing individuals from the minority community were discovered.
All 52 accused individuals, who faced charges related to rioting, unlawful assembly, and murder, were arrested and held in sub-jails in Kalol, Halol, and Godhra before being released on bail. A total of 130 witnesses provided testimony during the trial. The court concluded in its judgment that none of the accused could be charged with rioting, as the prosecution failed to demonstrate the recovery and seizure of weapons.
The court emphasized its responsibility to ensure that innocent individuals are not falsely implicated alongside the guilty parties, considering the tendency in communal rioting cases for both sides to attempt to implicate as many people as possible from the opposing community.
The judge noted, “In cases of communal riots, the police usually prosecute members of both communities. However, it is the court’s duty to determine which of the two versions is correct in such cases, and the court cannot avoid this responsibility on the grounds that the police did not ascertain the truth of either story.”
Additionally, the court criticized certain sections of the media and politicians it referred to as “pseudo-secular” for exacerbating the anguish felt by the peace-loving people of Gujarat following the Godhra train burning incident on February 27, 2002. The court remarked that these entities had further inflamed the wounds of the distressed individuals.
The court also acknowledged that reports indicated communal rioting spread across 16 of Gujarat’s 24 districts following the post-Godhra riots. The mobs involved were typically no less than 2,000 to 3,000 individuals and often exceeded 5,000 to 10,000 people. The court observed that these were spontaneous riots in Gujarat and were not premeditated, contrary to claims made by individuals labeled as “pseudo-secular.”