Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Monday upheld the conviction of 31 accused but commuted the death sentence of 11 convicts in the Godhra train burning case to life imprisonment.
The court also ordered the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of those who died in the tragedy.
A bench of Justices AS Dave and Justice GR Udhwani also observed that the state government had failed to maintain law and order, directing the compensation to be paid within six weeks.
A total of 94 people, all Muslims, had stood trial on charges of murder and conspiracy. In 2011, a court acquitted 63 of them. The High Court today refused to change that verdict. Those acquitted include Maulvi Umarji, accused of being the mastermind behind the fire.
31 people were convicted of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy. The death sentence for 11 of them has today been changed to life imprisonment. The others remain sentenced to life in jail.
In February 2002, a mob at Godhra railway station killed 59 commuters of the Sabarmati Express by setting fire to its coaches. Thirty one Muslims were later convicted. The arson was followed by intense communal riots across Gujarat in which more than a thousand people died.
The Muslim accused have always denied setting the train ablaze on February 27, 2002. On the other hand, allegations have been raised in the past that Godhra train burning was orchestrated by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to win the 2002 state elections.