A Special Sessions Court on Friday witnessed emotional scenes when it began hearings to decide on the punishment for the 49 convicts who have been in jail for 13 years in the 2008 serial blasts in Ahmedabad.
The plea by Convict Number 4 almost summed up the predicament of many convicts. He pleaded to the court: “Before handing down the sentence, do ponder upon these three things; my family is not well off, my children are yet to be educated and we do not even have our own house, the rest is up to you and Allah.”
“I have already spent 13 years in prison, I have been studying most of the time garnering degrees during my time here and my behaviour in jail has been good.”
There were no anxious crowds outside the Ahmedabad Sessions Court when Special Judge AR Patel conducted the hearing through video conference with the convicts joining from the Sabarmati Prison amid tight police security.
The special sessions court had on Tuesday convicted 49 of the 78 accused persons for the serial blasts that claimed 58 lives and leftover 200 people wounded. The rest were acquitted in the much-delayed trial. Thirty-two of the convicts are lodged in the Sabarmati Jail as of now.
The court had turned down the plea of the counsel for the convicts to grant them three weeks to produce evidence of their health, critical socio-economic situation of their families.
These documents were presented in the court on Friday, while the convicts were granted permission to make their submissions. Preferring not to make any plea, some convicts left it to the court to decide their punishment while several pleaded that they had already spent 13 years in jail and their overall condition be considered before pronouncing their sentence.
Several convicts insisted they had not committed any crime and one even mourned that he had been framed since he was a Muslim.
Convict Number 13 submitted: “I have nothing to do with this case. I am a Muslim so I was trapped. They have misidentified me and arrested me. I will give the rest of the representations in writing. Also, consider that I have a medical problem. I never came to Gujarat and I don’t even know Gujarati. I demand to serve my sentence in my state.”
Convict Number 10 is also anguished. “We have not been told in which case we have been found guilty. I did not commit any crime that made me feel guilty. People’s families were ruined. We have spent 14 years in jail and our families had to pay the price. Looking at the current legal system, it seems that Allah’s justice is needed on this earth.”
Some other convicts submitted that they would be represented by their advocates, while some have sought permission to make a written submission.
Convicts Number 6 and 8 pleaded before the court to consider the pathetic condition of their families before deciding the quantum of their punishment.
“The condition of my house is not good; my parents are old. I am responsible for my wife and children and I would like to also ask the court to consider that I have been in prison for 13 years,” said convict number 6.
Convict number 8 submitted, “My family’s condition is not good, I also have physical problems. My family situation will get worse if you give me more punishment (than the 13 years already in jail).”
The advocates of the convicts even cited the case of sage Valmiki to argue that they too be given a second chance since they had the educational qualifications to start their life afresh.
Citing a ruling, the prosecution had submitted during the last hearing that Valmiki was not an everyday occurrence. At the same time, the court should take into consideration the criminal history of the accused and the jailbreaking scandal by them.
The prosecution’s case is that the convicts had committed a heinous crime and should be slapped with exemplary punishment and even cited the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case to buttress their arguments.