Maya Kodnani acquitted by Gujarat HC in 2002 Naroda Patiya case

Maya Kodnani, a former Gujarat minister, was on Friday acquitted by the Gujarat High Court in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case. The High Court held that none of the witnesses were reliable. The court held that no criminal conspiracy could be established against Maya Kodnani and that of the 11 witnesses that were examined, none named Maya Kodnani when the case was being registered.

A division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya had reserved the order in August 2017 after the hearing concluded. In August 2012, a special court for SIT cases had sentenced 32 people, including Kodnani, to life imprisonment.

The High Court, however, found Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi guilty and upheld his conviction in the 2002 riots case. Suresh Langado alias Richard Chhara was also found guilty by the court. Maya Kodnani’s personal assistant, Kirpal Singh Chabda, who was convicted by the trial court in 2012, was also acquitted.

What happened at Naroda Patiya during the 2002 Gujarat riots?
On February 27, 2002, S-6 of Sabarmati Express train, carrying Kar Sevaks from Ayodhya, was set on fire in which 57 of them were burnt to death.

The Muslim locality of Naroda Patiya is less than 2 km from Naroda Gam. On February 28, 2002, it became the site of one of the worst massacres of the Gujarat riots — 97 Muslims were killed by mobs. Kodnani was accused of reaching the spot where a large mob had assembled, and of inflaming the situation. Eleven eyewitnesses claimed to have seen her getting off her car, surrounded by the mob. She allegedly addressed them and incited them to kill Muslims.

In 2012, a designated special court found Kodnani guilty. The court held that she was among the “principal conspirators” of the riots, and while there is no evidence of her having been part of the unlawful assembly, her role as the “kingpin” of the conspiracy was proved beyond doubt. The judgment said: “Accused 37 (Kodnani) has been proved to be the kingpin of the entire communal riot and one of the principal conspirators who has actively instigated the rioters and has abetted them to form unlawful assembly to execute the conspiracy hatched under her leadership with other co-conspirators.”Read more about the case here.