17, Jun 2016 | SM Vohra
Today, June 17 is the day that final judgement will be delivered in the Gulberg Society Massacre. Witness Survivors have filed detailed Written Arguments making a strong case for life sentence. The advocates for the survivors, backed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have also ,ade out a strong case for Compensation under Section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. After June 2, when Judge PB Desai first declared that a total of 24 persons have been convicted and that the charge of conspiracy not accepted, there were three further dates when detailed arguments, largely on behalf of the accused (for reduction of sentence) took place. SM Vohra with Salim Shaikh argued strongly for a strong life term for all accused and also submitted written arguments.
Charred remains of a home at Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad; Photo Credit: Ram Rehman
The verdict of the Trial Court in the Gulberg Society case is due tomorrow, June 2.
The experience for standing up for the survivor eye-witnesses of the Gulberg massacre between 2009 and 2016 has been a unique experience. The experience tells me that without a strong and committed legal aid team, as we could provide, it is impossible for those who have been rendered homeless and hopeless to fight back, for justice and ensure that the guilty are punished.
This was possible due to the fact that we ensured good legal aid throughout the process, the Supreme Court of India ensured protection to the witness. Finally salaams and salutes to the witness- survivors themselves who saw the struggle for justice as paramount to any other concern.
Since 1985, I have been fighting such cases. But with this case I saw that witness-survivors rendered homeless and helpless after an attack such as the one in Gujarat 2002 was cannot negotiate the system without a strong and committed legal aid team. That we could provide.
Today, we anxiously await the verdict and hope that justice will be done.
Initially, I recall that there were issues when we felt that the judge showed no empathy. A woman, Sairabehn Sandhi who has seen her only son killed in front of her eyes was lightly dealt with, almost humiliated, her grief mocked. This behaviour caused much pain. But thereafter, we have fought hard and hope to get a good judgement tomorrow.
Our team of lawyers backed by the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) team in Ahmedabad and Mumbai stood strong and ensured that at every stage we could take up matters with the with the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the apex court itself. This made it possible for there to be substantive justice in the other Supreme Court monitored cases handed.
Mental and legal support was provided by us. The rest of the courage and tenacity was shown by witness survivors. Our salaams to them.
It was also saddening to see the hostility of the SIT to us given the fact that it is witnesses and CJP that had in the first instance ensured a transfer of investigation to the SIT (2008). Do people register that though Gulberg society was in the heart of Ahmedabad the fire brigade did not once go to Gulberg to put out the fires that gutted the entire society? Not even as late as four or five days after the incident took place there? Why?
I have been in practice since 1985 and it is for the first time that we can see that in a real sense justice has been done in other trials. Hence we are hopeful in this one also. But for the determination that CJP showed in its continued support despite all adversity, we would not have reached here.
(Sabrang India: CJP’s legal team in the Gulberg Society case was led by senior advocate SM Vohra and supported by lawyers Salim Shaikh and Sadiq Shaikh).