Calling the Gulberg housing society massacre here on February 28, 2002, the “darkest day” in the history of civil society, a special SIT court on Friday said that the root cause of the carnage was the firing by former Congress MP, late Ehsan Jafri, around 1.30 pm.The court awarded life term to 11 convicts for burning alive 69 people, including Jafri, in one of the worst riots after the Godhra violence in 2002.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Firing by Jafri infuriated the mob to such an extent that it went out of control,” the court said.As to why the convicts were not given capital punishment, the special designated court’s principal sessions judge PB Desai observed: “The court, for any reason, does not find the offence to fall within the category of the rarest of rare cases and does not deem it appropriate to award capital punishment.””Also, the convicts have no prior or post history of committing such offences. They lead a normal life and deserve a chance to reform and rehabilitation,” the court said.When the massacre took place, Narendra Modi was the Gujarat chief minister. A mob of 400 people set about attacking the society and burnt alive its residents, including Jafri. It was one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.The court awarded 10-year jail term to one of the 13 convicted for lesser offences while the others were given a seven-year sentence each. The prosecution had argued that all 24 convicts should be given death penalty”CrPC provisions give power to the state to remit sentence after 14 years jail. Section 433-A imposes some restrictions on that power. In case the state does not exercise power to remit the sentence, life imprisonment will mean that it is till death,” the court said.Zakia Jafri, civil rights activist and widow of Jafri, said that life sentence should have been given to all convicts while her son Tanvir said there was definitely “some sense of closure” at the convictions. Activist-lawyer Teesta Setalvad, who has been appearing in cases relating to the Gujarat riots, said “we are very disappointed”.”All the sentences will run concurrently as the SC has laid it down clearly that if the crime had single purpose, sentences given for different sections of IPC should run concurrently,” the court said.Those given life sentence are Kailash Dhobi, Yogendra Shekhawat, Jayesh Jingar, Krishna Kalal, Jayesh Parmar, Raju Tiwari, Bharat Rajput, Dinesh Sharma, Narayan Tank, Lakhansinh Chudasama and Bharat Taili.One Mangilal Jain, who was convicted for lesser offence, has been sentenced to 10 years jail term.—With inputs from Agencies

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Jafri firing led to Gulberg killings: Court