Godhra case:Prosecution for death sentence for all 31 convicts

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Ahmedabad, Feb 25 (PTI) The prosecution today demandeddeath sentence for all the 31 persons convicted in the 2002Godhra train burning case, a plea contested by the defencewhich said the punishment for each of the guilty should dependupon the individual role in the incident.

After hearing arguments from both the sides, the Specialcourt reserved to March one its order on quantum ofpunishment.

Special public prosecutor J M Panchal told reportersafter coming out of the court: "We have prayed for deathsentence for all the 31 convicted. We have made submission insupport of our demand. The matter is now sub-judice and Icannot disclose anything further. We will have to wait tillMarch 1".

I M Munshi, one of the defence lawyers, said, "We haveopposed the prosecution''s demand for death sentence for allthe 31 persons...we believe that this is not the rarest of therare case."

"We have submitted to the court that quantum ofpunishment for the guilty should be based on his role in theincident, and considering his history, family circumstancesand time spent in the jail since the arrest," Munshitold reporters.

Munshi further said that there cannot be death sentencefor all the 31, as each individual would have a distinct rolein the incident. There cannot be a single yardstick, he said.

Special Judge P R Patel on Tuesday convicted 31 personsand acquitted 63 others in the Godhra train burning case.

Fifty-nine persons were killed in the incident on February 27,2002, triggering large-scale communal violence in Gujarat.

Advocate A D Shah, another defence lawyer, said the judgealso heard some convicts, who have sought leniency inpunishment, individually.

While convicting, the court had accepted the theory ofcriminal conspiracy behind the burning of the S-6 coach ofSabarmati Express carrying karsevaks returning from Ayodhya.

Scientific evidence, statement of witnesses andcircumstantial and documentary evidence placed on recordformed the basis of the court''s ruling on conspiracy theory inits over 850-page judgement.

The prime convicts among the 31 include Haji Bilal, AbdulRazak Kurkur, Jabir Behra, Salim Zarda and Mehbub Hasan aliasLatiko.

The trial, conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jailhere, began in June 2009.

Those acquitted by the court included Maulana Umarji, aprime accused.

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