Gujrat riots: HC acquits Maya Kodnani

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In August 2012, a special SIT court in Ahmedabad had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani, to life imprisonment. But the High Court asserted that out of the 11 witnesses, none had named her when the case was being registered. It also commuted the sentence of another convict, Babu Bajrangi, to a 21-year jail term from life in prison.

"The high court pointed out that the delay of six years in recording statements against Kodnani gave her the benefit of the doubt".

The bench upheld the conviction of Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi, and Suresh Langado alias Richard Chhara was also found guilty.

The High Court in August 2017 had reserved its order after the hearing concluded against the judgment of the special court. Backing her alibi, Mr. Shah told the court that he had "seen Mayaben Kodnani inside the Assembly at 8.30 a.m. and again at the Sola civil hospital around 11-11.15 a.m. and then they were both escorted out by the police".

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The Wire.in had reported in 2015 that the judge who had convicted Kodnani feared for her life because she often received threatening calls and letter.

Kodnani, a gynaecologist, was the MLA of Naroda when a coach of Sabarmati Express was torched near Godhra station, killing 59 kar sevaks. 7 accused had been given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt), and the remaining accused had been given simple life imprisonment of 14 years. Naroda Patiya was one of the 10 riot cases probed by the Special Investigating Team.

Up to 2,500 people, majority Muslims, were hunted down and hacked, beaten or burnt to death during the riots in 2002, activists say, in retaliation for the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which 59 people were killed. As far as Maya Kodnani is concerned, statements and evidence against Babu Bajrangi also apply to her.

The Naroda Patiya riots led to the death of 97 people. She was the minister for women and child development of Gujarat but resigned in 2009. Prime accused Maya Kodnani pronounced "non guilty" by Gujarat High Court. Back in 2012, the trial court had ruled: "In the record of this case, the witnesses have stated that all the disturbances were started and in fact reached its peak after the arrival of Kodnani". The court further said that the complicity of the accused will be considered. The High Court upheld conviction of 13 people including Bajrangi, and convicted another three for the first time, while acquitting 18 of the 32 people convicted by the trial court in2012.

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