When a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and P S Narasimha said that the convicts had been in prison for 17-18 years and the court would consider granting bail at least to those accused of pelting stones, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said it was not a case of mere stone pelting as the action prevented victims from escaping the burning coach.
The Gujarat HC in 2017 had commuted the death sentences of 11 to life imprisonment and upheld life sentences to 20 more and the acquittals of 63 accused in the case in which 59 Hindu pilgrims — 29 men, 22 women and eight children — had died after a coach of the Sabarmati Express train was set afire near Godhra station on February 27, 2002.
“After the S-6 coach was set afire by miscreants, the convicts rained stones on the coach to ensure that neither the passengers could exit the burning coach to save their lives nor anyone from outside could go to rescue them,” he said and requested the court to list for hearing all the appeals challenging the HC judgment, which had upheld their convictions.
However, he assured the court that he would examine the role of each of the convicts and inform the court whether some of them could be released on bail, provided their role was very minor. The SC allowed the SG to carry out the exercise and submit his views on December 15.
The prosecution had alleged that the S-6 coach was set afire by miscreants after bringing to halt the Sabarmati Express near Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002. The accused persons had allegedly also prevented fire engines from reaching the site. The incident had triggered state-wide communal riots.
On November 11, a bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justices Hima Kohli and J B Pardiwala had extended the bail granted to Godhra train burning case lifer Abdul Rehman Majid on May 13, 2022, till March 31 next year on the ground that his wife continued to be terminally ill and that his two specially abled children needed his care.