New Delhi: A special court today awarded sentences to the convicts in the Gulberg Housing Society riot case in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were killed in 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.
Of the 24 convicts, 11 were awarded life imprisonment while 12 others will serve seven years in prison. One more convict has been sentenced for 10 years.
The court had on June 2 convicted 24 people and acquitted 36 others, while dropping conspiracy charges. Out of the total 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while 13 others including VHP leader Atul Vaidya, have been convicted for lesser offences.
Prosecution had sought death penalty for all the 24 people convicted for the gruesome killings. The defence lawyers had however sought lenient punishment for the guilty.
The riots victims lawyer had argued during the trial that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulberg Society.
The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of the prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.
Defence lawyer Abhay Bhardwaj said a mob of around 1,500 had gathered on their own and not as a pre-planned conspiracy.
338 witnesses testified during the trial of the case, which ran for over six years.
The Gulberg Society case is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
There are 66 accused named by SIT in the Gulberg Society case of which nine are behind the bars for 14 years while others are out on bail.
69 persons lost their lives in Gulberg Society violence here on February 28, 2002 during the post-Godhra riots.
The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train was burnt near Godhra train station in which 58 karsevaks from Ayodhya were killed.