Naroda riots: Ex-BJP minister Maya Kodnani among 32 convicted

AHMEDABAD, Aug 29: Ten years after over 90 people from the minority community were killed in Naroda Patiya riots here, a special court today convicted 32 people, including BJP MLA and former minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, on charges of murder and conspiracy.
Additional principal judge Jyotsna Yagnik in her verdict acquitted 29 other accused.
The court held Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi guilty under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of IPC in the post-Godhra riots case.
“The maximum punishment for criminal conspiracy and murder can be death sentence,” advocate Shamshad Pathan, representing the victims, said.
The court, which heard arguments on the quantum of sentence, will decide on the punishment on August 31.
The massacre had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.
On February 28, 2002 when a bandh call was given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a large crowd gathered in the Naroda Patiya area and attacked people belonging to minority community that resulted in the death of 97 people while 33 others were injured in the violence.
Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area, who was considered to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was arrested in March 2009 when she was the minister and had to resign from the post.
She became the MLA for the first time in 1998 and won elections twice from that constituency.She was made Minister of State for Women and Child Development in the Modi government in 2007.
BJP state leadership wasted no time taking her into the Cabinet, widely believed to be at the behest of L K Advani. She was the first Sindhi leader to become a Gujarat minister, since the state was founded in 1960.
Welcoming the verdict, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said in Delhi tht the judgement enhances faith of the people in the legal system.
Playing down the court’s order, BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay said, “We have full trust in the judicial system of the country”.
The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused, one of the accused, Vijay Shetty, died during the course of trial.
As many as 327 witnesses, comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials, forensic experts and journalists including Ashish Khetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, have been examined by the court.
Initially, 46 people were arrested by the Gujarat Police, whereas 24 more people were apprehended after the probe was handed over to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2008. In all, 70 people were arrested in the case.
Six persons died before the charges could be framed and trial started, while two others identified as Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak jumped bail and are still absconding.
Kodnani was arrested by the SIT when she was a minister of state for women and child development in Modi government in March 2009. She was an MLA at the time of the incident.
The Naroda Patiya case was probed by eight investigating officers over the last decade with the latest being Himanshu Shukla on behalf of the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The Naroda Patiya case was one of the nine cases of Gujarat riots being probed by the SIT, including the Godhra train burning case. (PTI)


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