On June 12, the Sessions Court in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district acquitted all 35 surviving accused in four cases concerning the 2002 Godhra Riots. Notably, 52 persons were charge-sheeted in the case; however, 17 died during the pendency of the case as the trial went on for 20 years.
The accused were charged u/s 143, 147, 148, 149, 302, 201, 395, 435, 436, 427, 333, 295, 153 (A), 323, 504, 502 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and u/s 135 of the Bombay Police Act. The court held, “There is no evidence that the accused persons committed the offences” and thus ordered the acquittal of all accused persons.
The court said that the police unnecessarily implicated prominent Hindu persons in the area due to the uproar of the pseudo-secular media and organisations, causing them to face a prolonged trial. The court said, “Police implicated prominent Hindu persons of the area Doctor, Professor, Teacher, Businessmen, Panchayat official etc. hails to of a Hindu community. Due to uproar of pseudo-secular media and organization, the accused persons have unnecessarily to face prolonged trial.” The court said that the prosecution has failed to prove the “very story it alleged.”
The court was hearing a case concerning the 2002 Godhra Riots, wherein a mob set fire to 5-6 compartments of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, killing 59 passengers after it was brought to a halt at signal falia when someone pulled the emergency chain. The Sabarmati Express was returning from Ayodhya, carrying about 1700 pilgrims and Kar Sevaks.
The court said that peace-loving Gujarati people were shocked and became anguished after this incident. The court said, “We have seen that then pseudo-secular media and politicians rubbed salt into wound of anguished people.” The court noted that sixteen districts in Gujarat were engulfed in communal riots post-Godhra incident, and nowhere “mobs were less than 2- 3000, more. Often they were more than 5-10,000 strong.” The court noted, “There were spontaneous set of riots in Gujarat. They were not planned one, as described by pseudo-secular persons.”
Police Inspector Becomes Complainant to Register the Case
The court noted that the Senior Police Inspector (PI), Kalol Police Station, Patil “himself become the complainant and it was registered against members of violent mobs without naming any individual.” PI Patil’s complaint states that a “Hindu fanatical mob” of 500 people unlawfully assembled and set fire to a mosque. The complaint further submits that a mob of about 6000-7000 people attacked the slums behind Kalol bus stand and then a mob of about 1000 people attacked the Derol station area vandalizing and setting fire to vehicles, shops etc.
The court noted that as per the chargesheet, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a ‘Gujarat Bandh’ on February 28, 2002, after the Godhra train burning incident. The chargesheet further alleged that a “Hindu fanatical mob” of about 6000-7000 people unlawfully assembled, armed with deadly weapons, “attacked residency, shops, cabins, vehicles and religious places of Muslim community, looted, raised and set on fire.” The chargesheet further alleges that the mob killed Ruhul Amin Padava, Harun Abdul Sattar Tasiya and Yusuf Ibrahim Shaikh “by inflicting deadly wepones, then burnt them causing disappearance of evidence of offence.”
The chargesheet further alleged that the Muslim community started stone pelting in self-defence, which also caused injuries to police personnel. The chargesheet read, “That accused persons were part of violent Hindu mob who were targeting properties of Muslims, that the Muslim mob also resisted and there occurred cross stone pelting, that both the mobs had become uncontrollable and continued stone pelting which caused injuries to police person on duty and the police had to resort on firing.”
Prosecution’s Failure to Adduce Reliable Evidence
While the prosecution examined a total of 130 witnesses and produced numerous documentary evidence, but it “could not prove the aforesaid charges beyond reasonable doubt.” The court said, “We are aware of the maxim, “Evidence has to be weighted and not counted”.”
The court noted that three deceased were killed at different places. The court observed multiple lapses in investigation into the alleged death of Ruhul Amin Padva, who was identified by his father Abdulkadir M Padva through his pantaloon, which was recovered from the body. The court said that the “mere identification of pantaloon by its colour only, is weak evidence.” The court further noted that the while the police levelled grave allegations, it failed to adduce reliable evidence.
The court observed that there was a lack of eye witnesses in the case, and the ASI Railway Station, Godhra, did not choose to collect soil samples attached to the corpse. The court further notes that the testimony of related witnesses were contradictory. The court also questioned, “It was stated in Ex.102 & Ex.103 that nothing was recovered from that dead body. Then from where the I.O. obtained the pantaloon which was afterwards shown to Mr.Padva.” Furthermore, the court said, “The presence of inflammable or inflammatory substance was not found to suggest that the victim was burnt alive by that substance.”
The court said, “It may be stated that investigation need calmness, in his process. A calm mind views thing better than one stirred by emotions. A day after Godhra Train Carnage, the Railway Police was put under immense pressure by Pseudo-Secular politician and media. I will not blame the A. S. I. for not collecting such samples because I recollect the situation at the time of post Godhra riots.”
The court further noted that the prosecution produced hearsay witnesses to prove the killing of Hurun Abdulsattar Tasiya by a Hindu mob. The court further noted that Hurun Tasiya’s father was produced as a witness, describing the incident in examination-in-chief; however, during the cross-examination, he admitted that he came to know about the death of his son the next day when his neighbours told him about it. The police alleged that Hurun Tasiya was killed near a mosque in Delol and then thrown into a burning timber shop, however, the court noted that the timber shop’s owner Siddiq Ismail Tasiya turned hostile in the case.
The court noted that the remains alleged to be of Hurun Tasiya, could not be opined for origin when sent for scientific opinion. The court thus applied the rule of ‘Corpus Delicti,’ which means body of the crime, as the corpse could not be ascertained to be of “missing person Mr. Hurun A. Tasiya.”
The court, in application of rule ‘Corpus Delicti’ said, “There should be a body or at least a body of evidence for police to work with before the charge someone with a murder case. When someone goes missing and police don’t have a body or at least a body of evidence, how police can further proceed or work with which don’t exist. It is general rule not to convict anybody unless Corpus delicti can be established, that is until the dead body has been found.”
The prosecution’s case for Yusuf Ibrahim Shaikh was that a Hindu mob killed him, inflicting sharped weapons in farm, behind the house of one Abdul Rehman Shaikh. However, the police did not inspect the alleged place of offence, found eye witnesses to the crime or other evidence for his murder. The court noted, “In investigation, perhaps the I.O. did not find these allegations to be true versions. However, upon surmise only the I.O. has mentioned name of Yusufbhai I. Shaikh to be killed by the accused persons.”
Thus, the court said, “In view of above discussion I hold that the Prosecution failed to prove homicidal death of alleged victim (1) Ruhul Amin Padva (2) Harun Abdulsattar Tasiya and (3) Yusufbhai Ibrahim Shaikh.”
The court further heard other witnesses in the case and found that “None of these witnesses has ever given name of anybody as accused of violence. None of these witness gives version as to any role of the accused in the crime.”
The court said, “The Prosecutor who afraid from specific community lead N.G.O. rarely have recourse. In present case the Prosecutor unnecessarily prolonged the case by calling as many as witnesses. In our country the standard of truth amongst the population is very low. In this case testimonies of almost all witness revealed to be wholly unreliable.”
The court added, “Several persons of Muslim community who were said to be victims of communal violence in Delol, Derol, Kalol etc. had made oral and written representations of their grievance, before different higher authority, these are at Ex.840 and Ex.840-A etc. I have gone through their written allegations and their statements in police diary. Upon perusing those allegation keeping them next to next. I found that every time they introduced new story.”
The court observed, “None of the panch witness supported case of prosecution as to recovery of alleged weapon. Mere recovery of weapon is not sine quo non to connect the accused with crime. There is no direct evidence in case which shows specific accused was holding and using specific weapon at the time of violence.”
Innocents Falsely Implicated
The court said, “In case of communal riots a large number of persons is generally involved and the evidence is often entirely of a partisan character. There is moreover, great danger of innocent persons being implicated along with the guilty, owing to the tendency of the parties in such cases to try to implicate falsely as many of their enemies as they can. Therefore possbility of innocent persons being falsely implicated, should always be borne in mind by the Judge.”
The court further said, “In case on hand the Prosecution witness, particularly, Muslim witnesses who are alleged sufferers of riots have given widely divergent version of the riots. Therefore prosecution is failed to prove, the factum of movement of mob, as mentioned in F.I.R. and in charge-sheet.”
The court said, “Investigation of this crime prolonged too much due to continued and repeated written allegations by person of Muslim community.”
The court cited Gujarati author and a prominent Congress leader Kanhaiyalal Munshi, “If every time there is inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of merits of the question. The spring of traditional tolerance will dry up.” The court concluded, “In case on hand the police has unnecessarily implicated accused in alleged commission of crime. Police implicated prominent Hindu persons of the area Doctor, Professor, Teacher, Businessmen, Panchayat official etc. hails to of a Hindu community. Due to uproar of pseudo-secular media and organization, the accused persons have unnecessarily to face prolonged trial.”