Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All eyes on verdict in decade-long case

A special court is expected to decide the fate of 61 accused in the post-Godhra riot case today

All eyes are on the designated court which after completing trial
into the decade-long Naroda Patiya communal riots case, is expected to
deliver its verdict on Saturday.
The incident which occurred a day after the Godhra train burning
incident had witnessed killing of 95 persons from minority community.
To be delivered by designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik, the judgment
will decide the fate of 61 accused, including former minister in
Narendra Modi government and Naroda MLA Maya Kodnani and former VHP
leader Babu Bajrangi, among others.
The trial into the case had begun against 62 accused in September
2009 and continued for 31 months. One of the accused Vijay Chhara died
during the course of trial.
Ten others who were identified as accused died even before the
trial began. Three more persons — Vinod Rathi, Mohan Singh Nepali and
Tejas Pathak — are wanted in the case.
 During the hearing of the case, 327 witnesses, including 173
eyewitnesses were examined and 8 chargesheets were filed.
 The incident had occurred on February 28, 2002, a day after the
Godhra train burning incident, during a bandh called by Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (VHP). A mob carrying lethal weapons allegedly led by Kodnani
and others had gathered at Naroda Patiya and killed 95 persons.
Besides injuring 33 others in one of the most brutal post-Godhra
riots. While 95 bodies were found, three victims had gone missing.
Property worth Rs 4 crore was estimated to have been destroyed during
the incident. The court has examined around 500 documentary evidences
in the case.
With uncertainty prevailing over the fate of accused, there was
sense of uneasiness amongst the families of victims in the
riot-affected localities of Naroda Patiya, who hoped to get justice
with the conviction of accused but also feared a backlash in the
aftermath of verdict.
When contacted, Maya Kodnani, one of the key accused, said, “The
court has asked us to remain present in the case. We will be able to
know about the verdict only tomorrow.”

Maya, who has been alleged to have led the mob during the riots, also
faces allegations of brandishing a revolver and sword at the time.
Babu Bajrangi too faces allegation of carrying a sword. Local BJP
leader Bipin Panchal alias Bipin Autowala who was then the BJP
corporator is accused of carrying sword and pistol with him. It has
also been alleged that advocates Mukesh Rathod and Raju Chaubal
carried weapons and provoked the masses.