Four convicts in the Naroda Patiya case, which describes one of the worst massacres in the 2002 Gujarat riots, have been granted bail by the Supreme Court, which has doubted their conviction.
The convicts, Umeshbhai Bharwad, Rajkumar, Harshad and Prakashbhai Rathod, are serving a 10-year jail term for arson and rioting. They were convicted by the Gujarat High Court.
“The conviction order is debatable,” the Supreme Court said while granting them bail on Tuesday.
The top court also said it is seized of appeals by others convicted in the case, including Babu Bajrangi.
At least 97 Muslims were killed by a mob in Naroda Patiya near Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, in the communal riots that followed the Godhra train burning in which 59 Hindu train passengers were killed.
In June last year, the Gujarat High Court had sentenced the convicts to 10 years rigorous imprisonment, observing that their punishment must be consistent with the brutality of the crime.
The high court had convicted 16 people, including Babu Bajrangi, and acquitted 18 others, among them former BJP minister Maya Kodnani.
“The court cannot set aside the agony and anguish of the victims… Offences are not against individuals but society at large and has consequences of polarising society,” the high court had said on June 25.
“Imposing too lenient a sentence would amount to travesty of justice… Imposition of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment would be adequate punishment,” the court held.
The court further observed that any liberal attitude with respect to such offences would be “counter-productive” and “against the interest of society.”