Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Gujarat, women judges hold promise of justice for 2002

Parimal Dabhi : Ahmedabad, Sun Feb 26 2012, 22:12 hrs

Today it’s 10 years since the Sabarmati Express burning at Godhra that set off the Gujarat riots. The train fire and the violence that followed took hundreds of lives. At least 250 were named as accused, and for the thousands who survived, justice has come to mean an arduous trek to courts hoping some of them will be convicted. In five of the nine cases probed by the Special Investigation Team (including the Sabarmati carnage) in which trial is currently on in Gujarat, that trek ends at the door of four women judges who have bravely kept hopes of many afloat, against numerous odds. The only conviction so far has also come in the court of one such judge.
The four:
Swarnlata C Srivastava, Principal Judge, Mehsana District Court
In December 2011, in the first such conviction in a post-Godhra riot case investigated by the SIT, it was judge Srivastava who sentenced 31 landed Patels to life imprisonment for burning alive 33 Muslims in a room in Sardarpura, Mehsana. The order added that the killings were not premeditated.
Now she is presiding over trial in the Dipda Darwaja Massacre case in Visnagar, Mehsana, where 11 Muslims were burnt alive by a mob on February 28, 2002. The accused here include former BJP MLA from Visnagar Prahlad Gosa.
A master of arts, who did a bachelors in law and diploma in labour laws and personnel management, Srivastava was also behind the conviction of six teachers of a primary teachers’ training college in Patan for the gangrape of a Dalit girl on the campus. She sentenced them to life and asked each to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to the girl.
Before this, she had sentenced IPS officer Shabbir Khandwawala, Gujarat’s first Muslim DGP, to five years for a custodial torture case. Khandwawala’s appeal is pending in the Gujarat High Court, though he is now retired.
Jyotsna Yagnik, Additional Principal Judge, Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court
She presides over Gujarat’s biggest post-Godhra massacre case, Naroda Patiya, where 95 Muslims were killed in a single neighbourhood. Among the accused is ex-MLA Maya Kodnani. Additional Principal Judge Dr Jyotsna Yagnik, 58, has to her credit convictions ranging from the famous Bijal Joshi gangrape and suicide to the ISI conspiracy case.
The Bilal Joshi case involved a 24-year-old girl being gangraped by friends at an Ahmedabad hotel on New Year’s eve in December 2003, who later killed herself. In June 2008, Yagnik convicted sentenced five of the boys to life imprisonment, including Joshi’s boyfriend.

Continue reading at: