New Delhi, Aug. 11: The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Gujarat government and the Centre on a petition filed by four accused under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the Godhra train burning case who pleaded that the anti-terror law did not apply to them, reports our legal correspondent.
A division bench posted the matter for further hearing two weeks later and said the accused “shall” remain in custody.
The Gujarat government contended that the high court had erred in granting bail to the accused who in turn said on the day of their arrest the anti-terror law was not in existence.
The accused, Salimbhai Abdulgaffar Shaikh, Mohammad Hussein Abdulrahim Kalota, Siraj Abdullah Jamsa and Mohammad Abdul Sattar Giteli, were arrested on February 27 last year, after the Sabarmati Express carrying a group of kar sevaks from Ayodhya was set on fire at Godhra railway station in Gujarat. The incident had triggered a series of communal riots in the state.
Counsel for the accused pointed out that the anti-terror law was enforced in Gujarat on March 28, more than a month after the arrest, and so the government could not book the accused under the act.
The state government, the counsel contended, was violating Article 20 of the Constitution that mandated that any person could be punished only under a law in existence on the day of the offence.
Counsel for the Gujarat government, Hemantika Wahi, said the anti-terror law was invoked after certain other facts came to light during investigations and the state was well within the jurisdiction of law to charge the four under the act.