Fourteen years after 69 people were massacred at a housing society in Ahmedabad during the Gujarat riots, a court on Friday sentenced 11 of the 24 convicts to life imprisonment, one man to 10 years and 12 others to seven years in jail.
Pronouncing the punishment in a packed courtroom, Special SIT Court Judge P.B. Desai called the day of the killings "the darkest day in the history of civil society" but rejected the prosecution's request to treat it as a "rarest of rare" cases.
He refused capital punishment to the convicts as sought by the prosecution and advocates for the victims, stating it was beyond the jurisdiction of his court.
The judge also said he would not write in the verdict that those sentenced to life must be kept in prison till their last breath in view of their good conduct while on bail and in jail during the trial.
The government had the right to remit the life sentence after 14 years if it wished to, but Judge Desai appealed to it not to invoke the provision.
The court earlier turned down the conspiracy theory in its verdict.
All the 11 sentenced to life were charged with murder while the one who got 10 years in prison was charged with attempt to murder. Twelve others, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Atul Vaidya, who were found guilty of rioting and arson, were awarded seven years in prison.
As many as 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed on February 28, 2002 when an armed mob 20,000-25,000 strong attacked the Gulberg Society here inhabited by Muslims.
It was one of the most horrific outbursts of violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots which were sparked off by a train burning at Godhra that led to the death of 59 Hindus, mostly VHP supporters.
On June 2, the court convicted all 24 of the 60 accused while finding 36 not guilty.
The court held further hearings for three separate sessions before handing down the sentences on Friday.
Those sentenced to life imprisonment are Kailash Lalchand Dhobi, Yogendrasinh alias Lalusingh Shekhawat, Jayesh Kumar alias Gabbar Jigar, Krishna Kumar alias Krishna Munnalal, Jayesh Ramji Parmar, Raju alias Mamo Kaniyo, Naran Sitaram Tank, Lakhan Singh alia Lakhiyo, Bharat alias Bharat Teli Shital Prasad, Bharat Laxmansingh Rajput of VHP and Dinesh Prabhudas Sharma.
Mangilal Dhoopchand Jain was sentenced to 10 years.
The 12 sentenced for seven years are Surendra alias Vakil Digvijaysinh Chouhan, Dilip alias Kalu Chaturbhai Parmar, Sandeep alias Sonu Ram Prakash Mehra, Mukesh Pukhraj Sankhla, Ambesh Kantilal Jigar, Prakash alias Kali Khengarji Padhiyar, Manish Prabhulal Jain, Dharmesh Prahladbhai Shukla, Kapil Devnarayan alias Munnabhai Mishra, Suresh alias Kali Dahyabhai Dhobi, Atul Indravadan Vaidya of VHP and Babubhai Hastimal Marwadi.