Lack of evidence cited by judge for clearing 36 of involvement in communal violence in Ahmedabad in Gujarat state then led by present Prime Minister of India
NEW DELHI (TIP): 14 years after the horrendous massacre, 24 people were found guilty on Thursday, June 2, 2016 of brutal murder of 69 Muslims during the 2002 communal riots that ripped through Gujarat.
Judge PB Desai acquitted 36 people for lack of evidence, including a police inspector and a midranking official in the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Mr. Modi.
Erda, the then police inspector of the Meghaninagar police station, was arrested in 2002 by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team.
He had been accused by survivors of not stopping the rioters from entering the Society.
Among those also acquitted was sitting BJP Municipal official, Bipin Patel, who was also seen as one of the main antagonists when the massacre happened.
Prosecutors were seeking life in prison for all accused.
“I am happy 24 accused were convicted but sad that 36 others have been acquitted. This is incomplete justice and I will fight till the end,” Zakia Jafri, whose husband was killed in the massacre, told reporters.
More than 300 witnesses gave evidence during the years-long trial, which began in 2009 but was delayed by legal challenges and several of the original accused died.
Prosecutors had been seeking life in prison for all of the accused for storming the Gulbarg Society complex and killing the Muslims who were hiding there.
Among those killed at the complex was former opposition Congress lawmaker Ehsan Jafri, whose widow, Zakia, claims he repeatedly called police for help but none came.
The violence was triggered by the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire on 27 February 2002 that was initially blamed on Muslims.
Hindus bent on revenge rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods in some of India’s worst religious riots since independence from Britain and partition in 1947.
More than 100 people have already been convicted over the riots, including one of Modi’s former state ministers who was jailed for instigating some of the killings.
The trial over the massacre only began after the supreme court in 2009 ordered a reinvestigation into some of the worst incidents of the riots.
But one year later the same court issued a stay on any final verdict from the trial after a petition was filed seeking an inquiry into whether Modi and others played a role in the violence.
The court only lifted its order last year when a lower court upheld a rejection of the petition.
The riots have long dogged Prime Minister Modi who was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, and is still accused by rights groups of tacitly supporting the rioters. Even United States did not issue Travel Visa to Mr. Modi until he became the Prime Minister in 2014.