Gujarat riots: 22 acquitted due to lack of evidence
A court of Panchmahal district in Gujarat has acquitted 14 people accused of murder and rioting in the 2002 riots.
The judgement comes 18 years after the trial was registered. Five other accused died during the trial.
Additional Sessions Judge Harsh Balkrishna Trivedi in Halol taluka ruled late Tuesday that the prosecution had failed to prove the case.
The judge held that the prosecution had completely relied on the rule of corpus delicti — a body of the crime — noting that it is a “general rule not to convict anybody unless corpus delicti can be established”.
The court said that when it was reported that no DNA profiling results would be obtained upon completely charred bone pieces, “then automatically the rule of corpus delicti was required to be considered”.
The court said it was not established beyond a presence of doubt that the accused were present at the scene of the crime or their specific role when it had happened.
The court also noted that no alleged weapon or inflammable substance was found at the suspected spot.
The incident happened in February 2002 in the communal riots that
broke out in Gujarat after a bogie of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra killing 51 people.
In the original complaint, multiple Muslim families fleeing from Delol village, a
village in Kalol taluka about 150 km from Godhra in Panchmahal district, had
claimed that several of their family members were missing.
These families were later settled in a relief camp in Kalol.
Another complaint was also filed at the same time from Muslims taking refuge in another relief camp stating that the complainant had to flee from his village with son to escape an attack on his house by a mob of 100-120 people and that not everyone could escape. About 18 Muslims in the village were missing.
A FIR was lodged in Delol village and subsequently an investigation begun into the matter leading to the recovery of charred bodies and bones.
Muslim families whose families were missing had identified 20 people as those who killed their family members with swords and axes and later burnt the bodies.
In December 2004, another FIR was lodged by the police. This led to the arrest of the 22 accused who had absconded.
Their bail application was rejected by a local court. The Gujarat High Court granted them bail, defence lawyer Gopalsinh Solanki told the media
after the judgement.
According to the prosecution, 17 people were killed by a mob on March 1, 2002.
As many as 84 witnesses were examined during the trial.