Saturday, November 24, 2012

BJP MLA, Bajrangi, 30 more convicted

Thursday, 30 August 2012 00:15
Rathin Das | Ahmedabad
Hits: 57
A special designated court on Wednesday convicted 32 people and acquitted 26 in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre in which 96 persons were killed a day after 58 kar sevaks were burnt to death in the Sabarmati Express fire at Godhra on February 27, 2002.
Those convicted by Special Court judge Jyotsnaben Yagnik include former Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare Mayaben Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leaders Babu Bajrangi and Bipin Panchal.
The convicts have been charged with various offences like murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, spreading hatred against a community, unlawful assembly, rape, molestation and others.
Of the total 61 who faced trial, 29 have been acquitted. Those acquitted include two women, Gitaben and Ramilaben.
Eleven accused died before being brought to trial. One accused is absconding, while another died during the course of the trial. More than 320 witnesses were examined during the trial.
Meanwhile, Mayaben Kodnani has said that she was 'victim of politics'. Kodnani had resigned from Chief Minister Narendra Modi's Council of Ministers following her arrest in the case in March 2009. She is the sitting BJP MLA from Naroda.
Gujarat Government spokesman Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas dismissed the Congress demand for resignation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and said that Dr Kodnani was a not a Minister when the Naroda Patiya massacre had happened in 2002. 
Lambasting the Congress for using different yardsticks for themselves and the BJP, Vyas said the Congress is making the noises with their eyes on the forthcoming Assembly elections in the State.
Vyas said that Kodnani's conviction cannot be used to demand resignation of Modi as she is only a BJP MLA and a party functionary. She had quit as a Minister when she was summoned for interrogation in the massacre case, said the Gujarat Government spokesman.
Refuting the Congress demand for Modi's resignation, Vyas said that if such a barometer is used then all those Ministers at the Centre who have been convicted in the past should also resign.
When Special Court judge Jyotsnaben Yagnik asked if the convicted people have anything to say, a sobbing Kodnani said, “I am a victim of politics”.
Pleading leniency, the practising gynaeocologist told the court her husband is ailing and she too is a patient of blood pressure.
The State BJP has distanced itself from Mayaben Kodnani. She was not a Minister in the BJP Government at the time of the Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002, State BJP spokesman IK Jadeja said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
After the verdict was pronounced, Special Public Prosecutor Akhil Desai demanded death penalty for all the 32 convicted, describing the massacre as 'rarest of rare' case. Desai argued that many of the victims were unarmed women and children who were roasted alive by the accused who had hatched the conspiracy of murder.
Quoting from about a dozen Supreme Court judgements, the Special Public Prosecutor said that in such 'rarest of rare' cases, death penalty was the rule while life sentence is an exception.
However, if the judge feels that some of the convicted should be spared death sentence then they should be awarded life imprisonment for whole life and not to be let out after 14 years. Imprisonment for whole life would be suitable for them because they are already fortunate enough to escape death penalty, Desai told Special Court judge Jyotsnaben Yagnik.
The Defence Counsel countered the 'rarest of rare' theory and said that none of the 32 convicted were habitual offenders nor did they have any criminal background.
He said that there was no criminal conspiracy in the mayhem, which was caused by the surcharged atmosphere sparked off by the Godhra train inferno.
The quantum of punishment to the convicted would be pronounced on Friday, August 31.