2002 Gujarat riots| SC grants bail to 14 convicts in Sardarpura massacre case; Asks them to do ‘social service’

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of CJI SA Bobde and BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ has granted bail to 14 convicts in the Sardarpura village massacre case where 33 people were burnt alive during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. The 14 convicts who had been sentenced to life imprisonment have been asked by the Court to do social and spiritual services among others during the period of the bail. The court said that one batch of convicts will go to Indore while another will go to Jabalpur. The Court said,

“punitive harshness should be minimized and restorative devises to redeem the man even through community service, meditative drill, etc. should be innovated.”

The Court directed that the convicts be released on bail on furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand only) with two sureties of the like amount to the satisfaction of the trial court. The Court also issued the following directions:

(1) convicts shall not enter the State of Gujarat until the final decision of their pending appeal(s) before this Court.

(2) convicts shall reside in the District of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh or in the District of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, as the case may be, and report to the Police Station at Civil Lines, Jabalpur, on the first day of each calendar month.

(3) convicts shall not leave the District of Jabalpur or the District of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, as the case may be without obtaining permission from the learned District & Sessions Judge, Jabalpur.

(4) convicts shall engage in any spiritual programme or do some social/community services for a minimum period of six hours in a week during the period of bail.

The court further directed that Member Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh State Legal Services Authority to produce a certificate before this Court stating therein that the convicts are regularly engaged in any of the aforesaid programme/services. It further said,

“The Madhya Pradesh State Legal Services Authority shall also assist the appellant for obtaining employment in the district of Jabalpur. The Madhya Pradesh State Legal Services Authority shall submit a report of the compliance of the above conditions and regarding general conduct of the appellant once in every three months initially.”

Among the convicts who were granted bail are Prahaladbhai Jagabhai Patel, Vijaybhai Rajivbhai Patel, and Dilipbhai Vinubhai Patel. Over a thousand people were killed during the three-day riots that ensued at several places in Gujarat after around 58 people lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was torched at the Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.

[Prahaladbhai Jagabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 109, decided on 28.01.2020]

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