All the 31 accused were held guilty on two major counts under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code. But the court acquitted 63 people, who spent the last nine years in jail.
However, the Godhra verdict once again has proved that Justice U C Banerjee's report as a complete sham which had claimed that the fire was an accident and was not a deliberate act. A panel led by Justice Banerjee was appointed by the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in 2005.
The Gujarat High Court previously ruled that the Banerjee commission was illegal. Now, the sessions court appointed by the Gujarat High Court on the orders of the Supreme Court, dismissed the Banerjee report again.
Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly "kar sevaks" returning from Ayodhya, was burnt on Feb 27, 2002 at the Godhra station. The Sabarmati train burning issue led to the 2002 Gujarat violence.
However, surprisingly, the sessions court on Feb 22, acquitted Maulana Moulana Umarji who was alleged to have shouted over the public address system fitted in a nearby mosque asking the people of Godhra to rush to the railway station and "kill" kar sevaks aboard the Sabarmati Express.
Citing the court's verdict the main Opposition party, BJP, reacted strongly as Sushma Swaraj claimed, "The judgment vindicates our stand that they (kar sevaks) were burnt to death under a conspiracy. It re-establishes the conspiracy theory."
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain stated, "The theory propagated by the government and some NGOs has been proved wrong with the court saying there was a conspiracy.... One man (Banerjee) gave a clean chit but the court has not accepted this. The attempts to rubbish the fact of conspiracy has been defeated."