NEW DELHI: The Gujarat HC today acquitted former minister Maya Kodnani and upheld the conviction of Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case. However, the court commuted Bajrangi’s life until death sentence to 21 years in prison.
Maya Kodnani, a former minister and BJP leader, sentenced to 28 years in prison for leading the biggest massacre in the Gujarat riots of 2002, has been acquitted by the Gujarat High Court.
The court has, however, confirmed the life sentence of another high profile convict, Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Bajrang Dal.
In 2012, Maya Kodnani, a gynaecologist, was sentenced to jail for her role in the riots in Naroda Patiya, a suburb of Ahmedabad, where 97 Muslims were killed in three-day violence that followed the Godhra train burning of 27 February 2002, in which 59 Hindu volunteers were killed.
A Special Investigation Team had said that a day after the Godhra incident, Maya Kodnani incited mobs and was seen at the spot by 11 witnesses. Witnesses had told the court that she handed out swords to rioters, exhorted them to attack Muslims and at one point fired a pistol.
The court was hearing 11 appeal petitions moved by the convicts, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the families of the victims of the riots.
The court found Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi guilty and upheld his conviction. Suresh Langado alias Richard Chhara was also found guilty. Kodnani’s personal assistant, Kirpal Singh Chabda, who was convicted by the trial court was also acquitted.
The division bench of justices Harsha Devani and AS Supehia had reserved its order in August last year. The court heard a total of 11 appeal petitions. While all the convicts appealed against their convictions, the SIT sought to enhance sentences of three convicts, including former Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel. It also appealed against the acquittal of seven accused. The kin of the victims appealed against the acquittal of 29 accused.
In its order, the court upheld the verdict of 29 accused acquitted earlier by a special SIT court. The top court also turned down an appeal of the victims for compensation.
Today’s verdict came against an earlier order of the special SIT court convicting 32 persons including Kodnani to life imprisonment in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre.
In 2012, special judge Jyotsna Yagnik punished 32 persons including former minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrangi and acquitted 29 others. Kodnani was awarded a 28-year jail term and Bajrangi was awarded imprisonment till his last breath. Ten persons were sentenced to prison for 31 years, while the rest were handed down 24-year imprisonment.
Appeals were filed by — the convicts against the trial court order, by the probe agency – the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) seeking enhancement in punishment, and some of the victims against the acquittals.