Ahmedabad, June 2:
After 14 long years, a special Gujarat sessions court on Thursday convicted 24 people, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, in the sensational Gulbarg massacre case in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive on February 28, 2002.
Special sessions court judge P.B. Desai declared 36 of the 60 accused as ‘not guilty’.
The court rejected the conspiracy charge of the prosecution in the case.
An armed mob had set on fire the entire Gulbarg Housing Society in Ahmedabad’s Meghaninagar area, inhabited by members of the minority community, in broad day light killing 69 people.
While the charred bodies of 39 people were found from the spot after the arson, 30 other people were declared dead by the Special Investigation Team as there was no trace of them 12 years after the incident.
The sessions court judge will pronounce the sentences on the convicts on June 6.
Of the 24 people convicted, the court found 11 persons guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and 13 others guilty of lesser crime.
All the 60 accused remained present in court while their family members thronged the court compound in large numbers.
The court had heard the case on a day-to-day basis on the instructions of the Supreme Court, which on February 22 this year, directed the sessions court to pronounce its verdict in three months time.
The Gulbarg massacre case is one of the nine major cases of the 2002 Gujarat violence which were probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Earlier, the apex court while instructing the special court to expedite the hearing of the case had also said that the judgment should not be pronounced without its permission.
The SIT had named 66 accused in the case. Nine of them have been in jail for the last 14 years, while the remaining were out on bail. (IANS)