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Dignity before death

Ahmedabad, Aug. 31: The special court described the violence at Naroda Patia as “brutal, inhuman and shameful” and a “rarest of rare” crime but decided against death penalty, saying “it undermines human dignity”.

“Death penalty brings justice and it is desirable to reduce crime… but this court cannot overlook the global trend… by 2009, 139 countries have repealed death sentence,” judge Jyotsna Yagnik said.

The families of the accused, too, had suffered in the past 10 years and the purpose of deterrence had been served to an extent, she said.

But the court had ruled out leniency in punishment, saying: “It will be injustice to the families of the victims”.

“This (verdict) is unprecedented in Indian history as till now in most cases the sentences awarded in different offences used to run concurrently,” said Samshad Pathan, a lawyer representing riot victims.

As the sentences were announced, family members of the accused shouted anti-Modi slogans, many saying they would not vote for the BJP now.

VHP president Pravin Togadia said: “This is American-style justice where sentences will run separately.”

The judge also rejected the defence argument that the riots were provoked by the Godhra train carnage. “One crime cannot be justification for another crime,” she said.

The Sindhi Central Panchayat, backing Kodnani, will appeal in the high court.