GANDHINAGAR: April 20
The Gujarat High Court has upheld the conviction of former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi “to remain in jail till his last breath”.
The court however acquitted former BJP minister Maya Kodnani. Out of the 11 witnesses, none named her when the case was being registered. Witnesses said Kodnani alighting from the vehicle to talk to the police. No criminal conspiracy could be established, hence she has been acquitted. Also acquitted were Ganpat Chhara and Haresh Chhara, in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case.
Special Judge Jyotsna Yagnik stopped short of pronouncing death penalty for the perpetrators of one of the worst massacres of the 2002 Gujarat riot. The court observed that while death penalty may have been desirable, the global trend against the same in recent years cannot be overlooked.
The court further believed that “use of death undermines human dignity.”
The communal violence at Naroda was deemed “the largest single case of mass murder” during the 2002 Gujarat riots; it accounted for the greatest number of deaths during a single event. Survivors faced socio-economic problems; many were left homeless, orphaned and injured. A number of shrines were destroyed and many schools were adversely affected, cancelled exams or closed entirely.
In August 2012, a special court for SIT cases had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani, to life imprisonment. Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment, while Bajrangi was given life imprisonment till death. Seven accused were given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years, which they will serve after undergoing 10 years’ imprisonment under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt). Remaining accused were given simple life imprisonment (14 years). The trial court also acquitted 29 other accused for want of evidence. While the convicts challenged the lower court’s order in the high court, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appealed against the acquittal of 29 people.