Saturday, November 24, 2012


Gujarat EDN

TOI 30AUG2012

Sentence In Naroda Patia Case Likely On Friday


Ahmedabad: About 100 days ahead of his toughest electoral battle, chief minister Narendra Modi received a setback with a special court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday convicting a former minister in his government of murder in the biggest massacre of post-Godhra religious violence at Naroda Patia. In all, the court held 32 people guilty in the massacre, including sitting MLA and gynaecologist Dr Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. This is the most number of people to have been convicted in a single 2002 riots case at a time when assembly elections are to be held in Gujarat by December.
    This is also the sixth 2002 case investigated by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has seen convictions.
    All the convicts have been charged with murder,criminalconspiracy, rioting, arson, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, insulting religious sentiments by targeting religious places and fanning communal hatred.
    The court also convicted three persons — Suresh Didawala alias Langado, Manubhai Maruda and Mukesh Rathod alias Vakil — of gang rape. This is only the second post-Godhra case in which rape charges have been proved, the first being the Bilkis Bano case.
    On February 28, 2002, 97 Muslims, including 36 children and 35 women, were killed after 59 people, mostly kar sevaks, were burnt alive in the Sabarmati Express carnage at Godhra a day earlier.
    Delivering the verdict, additional principal judge Jyotsna Yagnik acquitted 29 others, giving them the benefit of doubt. The quantum of punishment is likely to be declaredon Friday.“The maximum punishment for criminal conspiracy and murder can be death sentence,” said Shamshad Pathan, advocate of the victims. Special prosecutor Akhil Desai sought the death sentence for all 32 convicts, contending that the case met the ‘rarest of rare’ criteria and warrants maximum punishment.
    The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 people, while one accused died during the course of trial. The judgment runs into 1927 pages. The judge heard the case for 37 months and prosecution examined 327 witnesses comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials and forensicexperts.
JournalistAshishKhetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, was also examined by the court.
    The Gujarat police had arrested 46 people initially, whereas 24 more people were apprehended after the probe was handed over to the SIT in 2008.
Govt distances itself from Kodnani
    Dr Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA since 1998 and a minister of state from 2007 to 2009, was arrested by the SIT when she held the portfolio of women and child development in the Modi government in March 2009. Soon after the verdict, she broke down and said that she was a victim of politics. Gujarat government distanced itself from Kodnani. “An MLA is not a state government functionary. Secondly, Dr Maya Kodnani was not a minister when this incident took place,” said government spokesperson Jay Narayan Vyas. Total recall
    On February 28, 2002 morning, a mob of thousands targeted the Noorani Masjid at Naroda Patia, who then entered bylanes where Muslims lived. Some families took refuge in SRPF campus nearby, but many were trapped outside. The mob charged at the hapless group near a water tank, where 58 of the 97 victims died. The mayhem lasted till 10 pm, after which the cops intervened and dispersed the rioters.
BJP downplays verdict
The BJP played down the verdict, saying the party respects the judicial system. “To question the judicial verdict on the streets is a culture of the Congress and not of the BJP,” party spokesperson Tarun Vijay said.