On Friday, a special court set up a speedy trial of the 49 people convicted in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts cases sentenced 38 of the 49 to death. The other eleven were given life sentences.
According to the defence lawyers, this is the most convicts sentenced to death in a single case in Indian legal history. The 38 defendants were sentenced under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (murder), as well as Sections 10 and 16 (1) (a) (b) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Each of the 38 people was also fined Rs 25,000 for each of the three offences.
The 11 others were sent to live in jail under IPC Section 302 and UAPA Sections 10 and 16 (1) (a) (b). A penalty of Rs 25,000 each was also imposed on them. Apart from the aforementioned provisions, all 49 convicted were also sentenced to life imprisonment under four provisions of the law — UAPA Section 20, Explosive Substances Act section 3 and IPC sections 124 A (sedition), 121 A (waging war against the state). However, all the sentences shall be running concurrently.
One of the convicted, Mohammad Usman Agarbattiwala from Vadodara, who was the only one found guilty under the Arms Act’s Section 25(1)(B) (a), was awarded a year of imprisonment under the said provision.
On July 26, 2008, 22 bombs exploded in Ahmedabad, killing 56 people and injuring 200 others at various locations including the state government-run civil hospital, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run LG Hospital, buses, parked bicycles, cars, and other locations. One bomb each at Kalol and Naroda did not detonate, out of a total of 24. A defence lawyer stated that the verdict would be appealed to a higher court.
“We had requested lenient sentences for the convicts because they had already served over 13 years in prison,” Khalid Shaikh told Reuters. “However, the majority of them were sentenced to death by the court. We will undoubtedly file an appeal.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister at the time, and he has since been accused of turning a blind eye to the violence. At least 1,000 people were hacked, shot, and burned to death in Ahmedabad during deadly religious riots in 2002.
The violence erupted after 59 Hindus were killed in a train fire, in which 31 Muslims were found guilty of criminal conspiracy and murder. A 2013 attempt by more than a dozen of the defendants to tunnel their way out of jail using food plates as digging tools was also foiled by police.
Except for one, who was released after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, all 77 accused have been held in custody for years.
Judge A R Patel on Friday ordered the punishment after the prosecution pressed for the death sentence describing the incident as a “rarest of rare case” in which innocent lives were lost.