Fourteen people convicted of burning 23 Muslims alive during the 2002 Gujarat riots were granted interim bail today by the Supreme Court pending a decision on their request to scrap their conviction. The convicts, charged with murder and rioting, were told they could leave jail if they stayed in Madhya Pradesh and did community service.
A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde asked the Madhya Pradesh administration to find them work, mainly "social and spiritual service". The court divided the convicts into two groups; a batch of six has been sent to Indore and a group of eight will go to Jabalpur.
Officials in Indore and Jabalpur have been asked to ensure that the convicts do six hours of community service daily and file compliance reports.
The case involves the massacre of Muslims at Sardarpura village in the riots that swept through Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning in which 59 Hindu passengers were killed on February 27, 2002. The Muslims, hiding in a house, were dragged out and set on fire by a mob.
The Gujarat High Court had convicted 19 in the case and acquitted 14.
Of the 19, 14 challenged their conviction, arguing that they were pronounced guilty based on a single witness. They argued that they had been in jail for more than six years and had never committed any crime while on parole. The Gujarat government opposed bail on the merits of the case but said their conduct in jail was "good".
At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the three-day violence.