Judge S.C. Srivastava told the special court that 42 out of the 73 accused are acquitted of all charges.
According to the complainant Sheikh Ibrahim Rghubhai a mob of 1,000 people had attacked a Muslim locality. Scared of rioters fury, people had gathered in a tiny room owned by Sheikh Mehmudmiya Hussainmiya which was set on fire. Bodies of 28 people were found at the scene, with five others dying later of their injuries.
Life sentences were handed to all 31 men for murder, arson and other charges, following earlier convictions of other Hindu rioters over the outbreak of violence.
“This is the first time in 60 years that so many people have been convicted in a case of communal violence,” Teesta Setelvad, secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) group, told the media.
“It is wrong to say that the big ones have been let off. All the accused in the case are big agriculturists, land owners and influential people.”
But other groups representing riot victims said the 42 acquittals due to lack of evidence revealed how many offenders would never been punished.
Responsibility for the train fire has been the subject of fierce dispute between Hindus and Muslims, but in March this year a court handed 11 death sentences and 20 life terms to Muslims convicted over the blaze.
The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, denies all accusations about his handling of the riots.