In August 2012, a court had sentenced 32 people, including Maya Kodnani, to life imprisonment in Naroda Patiya case
NEW DELHI: Maya Kodnani, a former minister and BJP leader, sentenced to 28 years in prison for leading the biggest massacre in the Gujarat riots of 2002, has been acquitted by the Gujarat High Court.
The court has, however, confirmed the life sentence of another high profile convict, Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS.
In 2012, Maya Kodnani, a gynaecologist, was sentenced to jail for her role in the riots in Naroda Patiya, a suburb of Ahmedabad, where 100 Muslims were killed in the single bloodiest episode of the three-day violence that followed the Godhra train burning of February 27, 2002, in which 59 Hindu volunteers were killed.
A Special Investigation Team had said that a day after the Godhra incident, Maya Kodnani incited mobs and was seen at the spot by 11 witnesses. Witnesses had told the court that she handed out swords to rioters, exhorted them to attack Muslims and at one point fired a pistol.
A trial court had held that she organised the mass killings.
But the High Court noted that out of the 11 witnesses, none had named her when the riots case was being registered. Witnesses said they had seen Maya Kodnani coming out of her car to talk to the police. The court said “no criminal conspiracy could be established”.
Maya Kodnani was granted bail in 2014 after she said she was very unwell; she was reportedly given shock therapy for depression. She is also accused of murder in the riots that took place on the same day, February 28, 2002, next door in Naroda Gram, where 11 Muslims were killed.
In the Naroda Gram case, BJP president Amit Shah testified in September that when the riots took place, 10 km from Ahmedabad, he had seen her first at the Gujarat assembly and then at a government-run hospital where she was consoling families of the Godhra victims.
A number of high court judges including justices Akil Kureshi, MR Shah, KS Jhaveri, GB Shah, Sonia Gokani and RH Shukla recused themselves from the case during the hearing on appeals.
Five years after the riots, she was made the Minister for Woman and Child Development by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. She held the ministry till her arrest in 2009.