On February 24, 2023, a court in Gujarat acquitted five individuals accused of participating in the post-Godhra riots that occurred in Ahmedabad in 2002. The verdict, which was delivered by the additional sessions judge Mustaq A Bhatti, comes after a lengthy legal battle spanning more than two decades.
The post-Godhra riots in Gujarat were sparked by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in Godhra on February 27, 2002, which resulted in the deaths of 59 individuals. Following the incident, widespread violence broke out across the state, with hundreds of people being killed and thousands being displaced from their homes.
The six individuals acquitted by the court namely Atul Shah , Mahendra Nayak, Devendra Jhala, Devendra Nayak , Bharat Gohil, and Saji Mansuri were accused of being involved in the riots that took place in Ahmedabad. The trial against Atul shah was abated due to his death during the pendency.
The prosecution had accused the six individuals of being part of a mob that carried out the killings and arson. However, the defense argued that there was no evidence linking the accused to the crimes and that they had been falsely implicated by the prosecution.
In its verdict, the court cited several inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, including discrepancies in witness statements and a lack of forensic evidence linking the accused to the crimes. The judge also noted that the prosecution had failed to establish a motive for the accused to have carried out the violence.
The verdict has been met with mixed reactions, with some hailing it as a victory and others expressing disappointment that the perpetrators of the violence have gone unpunished. The riots in Gujarat have been a subject of intense debate and controversy, with accusations of state complicity in the violence and allegations of human rights violations.
The acquittal of the five individuals highlighted the challenges of prosecuting cases related to the post-Godhra riots. Many cases have been delayed or remain unresolved due to a variety of factors, including political pressure, witness intimidation, and a lack of evidence.
The verdict also underscores the need for a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the events of 2002, as well as a concerted effort to address the root causes of communal violence in India