The Gujarat High Court today acquitted Maya Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case. Kodnani and others were awarded 28 years of imprisonment by a special court in 2012. The 63-year-old former BJP minister got the "benefit of doubt" as the division bench, comprising Justices H N Devani and A S Supehia, discarded the testimonies of 11 witnesses who had claimed spotting her at Naroda Patia during the riots.
In 2012, a special court for Special Investigation Team (SIT) cases had sentenced 32 people to life imprisonment, including Kodnani and Bajrangi.
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). The Gujarat HC had been hearing a clutch of petitions - of the convicts against the trial court order by the SIT that had sought enhancement in punishment, and of the victims against the acquittals.
She was sentenced to life by a trial court for inciting the mob to avenge the the burning of train in Godhra.
Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani welcomed the verdict given by Gujarat High Court in favour of former Minister Maya Kodnani. The court also held 27 others guilty in the case.
The trial court had sentenced Bajrangi to life imprisonment till death. Swamy Aseemanand was acquitted in the Mecca Masjid blasts case recently, Sadhvi Pragya, also accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts and other cases, is out on bail.
The lawyer appearing for the victims in the case, Samshad Pathan, said he would approach the Supreme Court against the acquittals as well as reduction of sentence of those found guilty. They also said that she had been named as an accused later. Witnesses said they had seen Maya Kodnani coming out of her auto to talk to the police. He had said that he saw Kodnani in the Gujarat Assembly on the morning of the riots. Bajrangi was handed out imprisonment till death.
The high court said in its verdict that prosecution witnesses statements about Kodnani were contradictory, and the charge of conspiracy wasnt proved against her. But today she has been found innocent.
BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel welcomed the judgement.