Special Court Judge P B Desai also acquitted 36 others including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel and also dropped the conspiracy charge (120 B) against all the accused. Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial.

Of the 24 convicted today, 11 have been charged with murder, while other 13 have been convicted for lesser offences. The court said that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case, while dropping section 120 B of the IPC. The quantum of sentence for those convicted in the case will be delivered on June 6.

The 24 convicted includes VHP leader Atul Vaidya. Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and K G Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulberg Society was located, are among those acquitted.

The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by May 31. Of the 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, nine are already behind bars, while others are out on bail.

Bipin Patel, who is acquitted in the case, is a sitting BJP corporator from Asarva seat. He was also corporator in 2002 when the massacre happened and won the election for fourth consecutive term last year.

During the trial, riots victim's lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulberg Society.

The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.

The Gulberg Society case is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station on February 27, 2002 during which 58 'karsevaks' were killed.

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