Gujarat HC acquits Maya Kodnani in Naroda Patiya massacre case

Maya Kodnani was acquitted by the Gujarat High Court in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case on Friday

On Friday, the Gujarat High Court acquitted former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani saying there was no evidence to nail her, while upholding conviction of 13 persons including ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi.

"Maya Kodnani's delayed nailing in the case can not be accepted", the court observed, citing contradictions in the statements given by the witnesses before the SIT and earlier before the Gujarat police. The High Court, however, didn't give much relief to another key accused in the case - Babu Bajrangi who had been sentenced for life imprisonment by the lower court. Kodnani punished for a 28-year jail term while Bajrangi was sentenced imprisonment till his last breath. The court, however, reduced Bajrangi's sentence from "jail till his natural life" to 21 years' rigorous imprisonment, for maintaining parity with punishment given to other convicts. Out of the 61 accused in the case, the special SIT court had, in August 2012, held 32 guilty, and acquitted 29. Following the Godhra riots in Gujarat, at least 97 Muslims were killed in Naroda Patiya riots.

At least 97 Muslims were massacred at Naroda Patiya following the burning of S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra station on February 27, 2002 in which 58 Hindu kar sewaks were charred to death.

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Yagnik said that Maya Kodnani has not been acquitted but she has been given "benefit of doubt".

All the convicts had appealed against their conviction in the High Court. Along with Kodnani, Ganpat Chhara and Haresh Chhara, two other accused in the case have been acquitted as well.

According to the Special Investigation Team that probed the Naroda Patiya riot, Kodnani was seen getting off her auto at the spot by 11 witnesses.

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Moreover, the bench turned down an appeal filed by the victims for compensation. The court further said that the complicity of the accused will be considered.

Kodnani, who was a minister in the government of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is now out on bail, while Bajrangi is in jail. Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was given imprisonment until death. Kodnani had maintained that she had been falsely implicated. "She has worked hard for the party and definitely, she will be given an active role in the party if she wishes to continue", Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said. "Maya Kodnani's delayed nailing in the case can't be accepted", the bench observed.

The high court said in its verdict that prosecution witnesses statements about Kodnani were contradictory, and the charge of conspiracy wasnt proved against her.

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