Anand (Guj), Apr 9: A decade after 23 people including 18 women and children were burnt alive by a mob in Gujarat's Ode village during the post-Godhra riots, a court here today convicted 23 accused and let off as many in a case it described as “rarest of rare”.
District and Sessions Judge Poonam Singh held 23 of the 47 accused guilty and will pronounce the quantum of sentence on April 12. One of the accused had died during the trial.
23 people, including nine women and as many children of the minority community, were burnt to death in a house in Pirwali Bhagol area of Ode village by a mob of over 1,500 on March 1, 2002 following the Godhra train burning incident that had triggered a communal conflagration across the state.
Special public prosecutor P N Parmar said that the court considered the incident to be “rarest of the rare”. He said out of the 23 found guilty, 18 were convicted for murder and criminal conspiracy and five for attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.
The Ode carnage case is the third of the nine cases probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT in which judgement has been delivered.
Earlier, a court had awarded death sentence to 11 and life term to 20 in the Godhra train burning incident in which 58 persons, mostly Kar Sevaks, had been killed on February 27, 2002.
The second case was that of Sardarpura village in Mehsana district in which 31 persons were awarded life term and 42 others acquitted.
33 Muslims had been burnt alive at Sardarpura in Mehsana district during the 2002 communal riots.
Riot victims and those working to secure justice for them have hailed the judgement. Teesta Setalvad of NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace, working for the riot victims, said she welcomes the judgement and is satisfied with it.
The prosecution has sought capital punishment for all those convicted for the Ode massacre, Parmar said. He said more than 150 witnesses were examined and over 170 documentary evidences placed before the court during the trial.
The trial in the case had commenced towards the end of 2009 and was on verge of completion when the then judge hearing the case resigned in May 2011, citing personal reasons, following which Judge Singh was appointed and arguments heard afresh.
Parmar said the SIT was probing three cases relating to the communal violence at Ode.
On March 2, 2002, a day after 23 people had been killed, one more person was done to death. 15 people who were made accused in the first case were also held responsible in the second.
In her today's order, Judge Singh acquitted all the 15 accused in the second case of slaying of an elderly person for want of evidence.
The third case involves killing of three persons belonging to the minority community in Malva Bhagol area of Ode village, also on March 1, 2002. The judgement in this case is awaited.