Ruling out conspiracy in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre, a special court said firing by former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, in which one person was killed, infuriated the mob and led to the "killing frenzy", but asserted that the firing cannot condone the acts of the mob.
"It was the private firing by Shri Ehsan Jafri that acted as a catalyst and which infuriated the mob to such an extent that it went out of control," special SIT court judge PB Desai said in his order on Friday. "The limited police force available there had no means to control or disperse such mob, which had gathered in large numbers post the incident of private firing."
As many as eight rounds were fired from Jafri's gun, killing one and injuring 15, the order said.
"Shri Ehsan Jafri had perpetrated acts of firing from his weapon from different locations within Gulberg Society upon the mob, causing injuries and death of one person, which in my opinion was the catalyst," the court said.
Rejecting the conspiracy angle to the incident, the court said it was "unnatural" that while no grave untoward incident took place between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm on February 28, 2002, things turned "ugly" all of a sudden after 1:30 pm "as if some tap was turned on, which resulted in a flood of water and the carnage was perpetrated".
The court, however, added that this fact cannot "in any manner excuse or condone the acts of the mob, which perpetrated the violence needlessly upon innocent men, women and children and hacked them to death, and ensured that many others were burned to death in the carnage that followed such private firing."
"The incidence of Gulberg society is in fact a culmination of a series of incidents, which happened at different timeframes... suddenly transgressing into this grave and heinous carnage, which has resulted in the death of such large number of women, children and elderly," it said.
The court noted that a large mob gathered spontaneously after the news of members of the majority community being injured or killed in the firing spread.
Zakia, the wife of slain former MP Ehsan Jafri, on Friday expressed dissatisfaction over the verdict in the case, saying the court did "injustice" to her.
"I don't understand why 11 were given life imprisonment and some are given just seven or ten years of imprisonment. Why this selective approach — as they all were part of a violent mob, which killed people inside the society," Zakia said while speaking to reporters.
According to her, those who were acquitted were also guilty and should be punished. "My fight for justice will continue. Why these 36 were acquitted? Did they save any resident of the society? They were also part of the mob. I am not at all satisfied with today's verdict. I will approach the high court against it," Zakia added.
The court sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment in the case of burning alive of 69 people, including Jafri, in the 2002 post-Godhra violence. One person was awarded a 10-year jail term for lesser offences, and 12 others got a seven-year sentence.