Ahmedabad: A week after the 31 accused were held guilty of conspiring and setting the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express on fire in Feburary 2002 and killing 59 people, mainly kar sewaks, the special court in Ahmedabad's Sabarmati Jail on Tuesday handed the death penalty to 11, while 20 other convicts were sentenced to life.
The key conspirators given the death penalty include Razzak Kurkur, the owner of the Aman Guest house where the conspiracy was allegedly planned the night before the train was burnt, Binyamin Behra, Haji Bilal, Hasan Lalu and two others who were present at the guest house and played a role on procuring petrol for the purpose. Also given death were five others who had a direct role in setting the coach on fire.
"The honourable court must have felt that the cases of 11 accused persons fall under the category of rarest of the rare case for their part in the crime," said special public prosecutor JM Panchal.
While a death penalty will have to be confirmed by the High Court, the defence counsel will now also challenge the fundamental verdict upholding the conspiracy theory. They have argued that it was an accident that led to the fire.
The prosecution meanwhile said, it may now challenge the acquittals of 63 accused and also demand death for the 20 convicts, who have been given life sentence.
"It is difficult to swallow. We will wait till we receive a copy of the judgment before commenting," said IM Munjal.
Death penalty for many of the accused was expected since the court had upheld the police's case and ruled that there was a pre planned conspiracy to set the Sabarmati Express on fire.
Both defence and prosecution will now argue against the verdict in the High Court - and it's clear that the first verdict in a case that shook Gujarat and India will not be the last.