SC nixes bail pleas of three convicts in Godhra train burning case

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the bail pleas filed by three accused, serving life term in the 2002 Godhra train burning case, citing their key role in the incident.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud stressed the seriousness and sensitivity of the incident in which several people were burnt alive.
However, the court decided to list the appeal filed by the convicts before another bench for consideration. The bench said that the circumstances are not conducive to grant bail to the petitioners. A bench, comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra, said that the case was not about the murder of a single person but about the murder of dozens of people.After hearing the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the accused petitioners, the bench ruled that the bail application was not maintainable.
Earlier, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued before the court that the allegations against the three convicts were not limited to stone pelting. One of the accused has been proved to be the main conspirator. It was the same criminal who actively participated in burning alive the innocent men, women and children in bogie number 6 of the Sabarmati Express standing at Godhra station.
Hegde, the counsel for the petitioners, in defence of the convicts, stressed that the convicts have spent more than 17 years in custody. He argued that the charges against two of them pertained to stone-pelting only, while one was also accused of robbing passengers of jewellery. In response, Mehta refuted these claims.
Considering the roles of the convicts in the incident, the court determined that it would not be appropriate to grant them bail at this stage. The court, however, clarified that the judgment would not infringe upon the right of the petitioners to appeal against the conviction.
The bench also said that there should be no delay in hearing the petition against the conviction, so their petition will be listed in time.
Earlier, on April 21, the Supreme Court had granted bail to eight life convicts in the same case, accepting the long jail term of 17-18 years and noting that the appeal process would take time, which would help them in their Legal rights can be violated. However, the court declined to grant similar relief to the four persons who were sentenced to death in connection with the case.
Earlier, the Gujarat government had opposed the bail plea highlighting the seriousness of the incident in which 59 people, including women and children, were burnt alive.
On December 15, 2022, the Supreme Court granted bail to an accused in the 2002 Godhra train burning case, holding that his involvement was limited to pelting stones from the coach.