Sunday, November 25, 2012

No death, but no life left either

Gujarat EDN
DNA 01SEP2012

 Maya will be 85 when free, Bajrangi will come out dead
Team DNA l Ahmedabad
It’s a full life sentence which may be deemed worse than a death sentence, by the convicts. BJP’s sitting MLA and former minister Maya Kodnani will be 85 years old when she walks free. But self-styled Hindutva champion Babu Bajrangi will be a dead man when he comes out of the prison. 29 others also escaped the death sentence for the ghastly Naroda Patia massacre which left 97 dead on February 28, 2002.
But what special judge Jyotsna Yagnik handed them on Friday, may probably prove more painful. The sentences given to the conspirators and the perpetrators of the killing, rape and rampage will not run concurrently as it happens in most such cases; they will run one after the other.
Conviction and sentencing of Naroda MLA, Dr Kodnani, has made it impossible for the BJP to now distance itself from the 2002 riots. Chief minister Narendra Modi will now find it more difficult to wash his 2002 riots tarnishes as his once high-profile former cabinet colleague, a woman, has been convicted for one of the biggest rioting incidents of 2002.
Maya has got 28 years in prison — 1o years under Section 326 of the IPC (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) to be followed by 18 years for murder and other charges. Former Bajrang Dal leader, Babu Bajrangi, will now spend his remaining life in jail. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment but the court ordered that he will remain in prison all his life.
Seven of the convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment but, in their case too, the 21-year life-term for murder will follow 10 years spent in prison for charges under Section 326 of the IPC.
The rest of the 22 people convicted in the massacre case will have to spend a minimum of 24 years in jail — 10 years on other charges to be followed by 14 years for murder.
Akhil Desai, special counsel for the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), said that all the convicts will have to spend long years in jail.
“The court has sentenced all the convicted people to life imprisonment on the charge of murder. In addition, they have also been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on other charges including attempt to murder, rioting, unlawful assembly etc,” said Desai.
The lawyer further said that the court had clarified that the convicts will have to first undergo imprisonment for “substantive charges and after expiry of the jail term for those charges, they will have to undergo life imprisonment for murder.”
SIT’s lawyers Akhil Desai and Gaurang Vyas had sought capital punishment for all the 32 people convicted in the massacre case. (Quantum of punishment was pronounced on Friday only for 31 convicts as one convict is still absconding.) A total of 97 people were killed at Naroda Patia on February 28, 2002 during the post-Godhra communal riots in the state.
While pronouncing the sentence on Friday, the judge observed: “Noticing the fact that the sword has been kept hanging for 10 long years on the accused who were implicated in the crime, the purpose of deterrence has already been partly served in this duration. Hence death sentence should not be awarded.”
The court further said that death sentence should be imposed only when life imprisonment appears to be an inadequate punishment.
The court termed Kodnani, a former minister of state for women and child development and of higher education, the ‘kingpin’ behind the massacre.
“Kodnani has played the role of one of the principal conspirators and the kingpin of the communal riots,” the court said.
“India is a secular state and such offence by an elected member of a constitutional body needs to be viewed by the courts very seriously,” the court said.
Disharmony, hatred and enmity based on religion were caused by instigating people and Kodnani had abetted such crimes, the court added.
Regarding Babu Bajrangi, the court said: “Bajrangi is the one who was proved to have been present and participated in the worst occurrence of the entire day, from where the highest death toll was reported,” the court said.
Significantly, while handing down the sentence, the court clarified that Kodnani would not be eligible for remission of sentence by the government until she had served 18 years in jail. Seven convicts who have been sentenced to 21 years jail term will not be eligible for any remission.
The court also sentenced Suresh alias Langdo Chhara to a further 10 years imprisonment for rape. It further observed that though the role of the accused in rape and sexual assault on women had not come to the fore during the trial, it had actually happened that day. The court kept pending judgment in the case of one accused, Suresh alias Sahejad Chhara, who is absconding and was not present in court on Friday.