The high court also upheld the life sentence awarded by the special SIT court to 20 others in the case. The incident had triggered large-scale riots in Gujarat in which around, reportedly, 1,000 people were killed.
Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, in which 59 people, mostly "kar sevaks" returning from Ayodhya, was burnt on February 27, 2002 at the Godhra station, triggering riots in the state. From the accused, 11 people were sentenced to death and 20 were given sentences of life imprisonment. The court gave relief to 59 victims by ordering state government and railway authority to give them compensation of Rs 10 Lakh to kin of each and decide quantum of compensation for more than 200 injured persons.
Twenty other convicts will remain sentenced to life in jail, the high court court ruled.
All the 31 were convicted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code related to murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.
The special court's additional sessions judge PR Patel while accepting prosecution theory of pre-planned, had passed verdict running in 850 pages in 2011.
However, Kurkur and Kalota with 29 others were convicted for hatching conspiracy and for murder. The Commission had concluded that fire in S6 coach of Sabarmati Express was not an accident, but it was torched charring passengers to death.
With this judgment, the main accused in the case Maulana Umarji also stands acquitted. Following the carnage, Gujarat government had appointed the Nanavati Commission to launch a probe into Godhra train burning incident.