29 aug 2012
Naroda Patiya riots case: Former minister Maya Kodnani among 32 convicted
Ahmedabad: Ten years after a mob killed 95 people in Naroda Patiya, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots, a special court today convicted 32 people, including former minister and doctor Mayaben Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, for the carnage. The special court in Ahmedabad also acquitted 29 people. The quantum of sentence will be announced on Friday.
Ms Kodnani and Mr Bajrangi have been held guilty of murder under Section 302, and of criminal conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The maximum sentence under these sections is the death penalty. This is the first time that a former minister has been convicted in a Gujarat riots case.
“It’s a great verdict, we would have liked many more convicted but let’s hope that truth and justice will finally prevail,” said one of the victims.
Public prosecutor Akhil Desai said the charge of criminal conspiracy has been proved and no leniency should be shown to the guilty. Mr Desai told reporters that the guilty were charged for rioting, murder, arson and attack on a religious structure, adding that he would argue for “imprisonment for life” for the guilty.
Welcoming the verdict, Law Minister Salman Khurshid today said the judgement enhances faith of the people in the legal system. “Every time this kind of inhuman act is made accountable, people who are responsible should feel a sense of reprimand. Those who wait for justice want to hear that the scales of justice have finally shown that rule of law prevails in the country,” Mr Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi.
A practising doctor, Ms Kodnani was the Minister for Women and Child Development in the government between 2007 and 2009 when she was arrested by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
On February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident of Hindu children women returning from Ayodhy pilgrimage, a rioting mob had attacked Naroda Patiya with guns, bombs and machettes, killing 95 Muslims.
The case was first investigated by the Gujarat Police, but in 2009, the Supreme Court appointed a SIT to probe ten cases, including the Naroda Patiya incident. The SIT registered cases against many of the accused, including the then Minister of Women and Child Development Mayaben Kodnani.
Witnesses in Naroda Patiya have made statements alleging that Ms Kodnani had incited mobs. Babu Bajrangi, the Bajrang Dal leader, was accused of leading the mob that attacked the Naroda Patiya victims.
As many as 327 witnesses were examined by the court. Of the 64 people accused in the case, three died during trial. The remaining 61 accused were tried for murder, arson and rioting. Most of them were out on bail.