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Prakriti Deb, Pune

On Tuesday, a court in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district acquitted 22 people accused of killing 17 people of a minority community including two children, in an aftermath of the 2002 riots in the state. Out of the 22 accused, eight had died during the pendency of the case. However, all the accused had been out on bail granted by the Gujarat High Court since 2004

The case dates back to the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, following the burning of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra, that claimed 59 lives. In a follow-up incident of 2004; 22 people were arrested after an FIR was filed against them for killing 17 in Delol village in 2002. Police recovered bones from an isolated place on the banks of a river, but they were charred to such an extent that could not be identified as the remains of the victims, said defence lawyer Gopalsinh Solanki. They had burnt the bodies of the victims with an intention to destroy the evidence, as per Prosecution. 

The court ultimately concluded that the prosecution could not prove the suspected place of crime, nor could they recover the bodily remains of the alleged victims. The presence of the accused at the site of the offence and their role in the crime could also not be established, the court observed.

The acquitted people, other than the ones who died during the trial, are Mukesh Bharvad, Killol Jani, Ashokbhai Patel, Niravkumar Patel, Yogeshkumar Patel, Dilipsinh Gohil, Dilipkumar Bhatt, Nasibdar Rathod, Alkeshkumar Vyas, Narendrakumar Kachhiya, Jinabhai Rathod, Akshay kumar Shah, Kiritbhai Joshi and Sureshbhai Patel.

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