New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that special courts set up by it can deliver its verdict in the Godhra case - 58 people were killed after a train was set on fire near Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, triggering massive communal riots across Gujarat.
The Supreme Court has also cleared the way for verdicts to be delivered in seven other cases of riots that followed Godhra. Each case is being heard by a different court.
However, the verdict on the riots in Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Society, which took place a day after Godhra, will have to wait. That's because a Special Investigating Team is still researching the case. Chief Minister Narendra Modi was questioned in March this year in connection with the Gulbarg Society riot, in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri was among 69 people who were killed.
The Supreme Court had stayed the trial in all eight cases in May this year, after human rights activists said that the prosecution was influenced by the Narendra Modi government and was biased.
In May 2009, the Supreme Court had ordered the Special Investigating Team to check out these allegations. In the meantime, it said, the cases could be heard, but judgements could not be pronounced.
Today's decision changes that. The court's committee has completed its reports on all but the Jaffri case. Jaffri's widow, Zakia, has alleged that Modi conspired with other senior politicians and bureaucrats to ensure that help did not reach those being attacked. The Supreme Court has given its committee another month to complete its investigation in this case.
The estimate of how many people died in the riots across Gujarat ranges from 1200 to 2000, depending on who you talk to - the government or human rights activists.