Maya Surendrakumar Kodnani was acquitted by the Gujarat High Court today of involvement in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. A gynecologist turned politician by profession, Maya Kodnani was the former Minister of State for Women and Child development in the Gujarat government. She had been consistently winning from the Naroda seat since 1998. She joined the 12th legislative assembly of Gujarat after being elected from the Naroda constituency for the third consecutive time on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket. She had to resign from her post in 2009 as a result of the Special Investigation Team’s report citing her as an accused in the massacre. Her name featured prominently in the list alongside other accused such as Babu Bajrangi and Suresh Dedawala.
The Naroda Patiya massacre happened in 2002 following the 2002 Godhra train burning on 27 February 2002. Four coaches of the Sabarmati Express which had pilgrims and Karsewaks returning from Ayodhya had stones pelted at them. The four bogies were later set on fire which resulted in the death of 59 people while it injured 48 more. A mob of 2000 people had attacked the train a little while after it left the Godhra station. The Gujarat riots started on February 28th 2002. They were, reportedly, in retaliation to the Godhra train burning.
The police investigations had been allegedly in favor of the rioters and so the Supreme court had set up an SIT in 2009 to investigate the case further. The SIT submitted its report in 2012 and the hearing began in a Special Trial Court. In August 2012, the first verdict in the Naroda Patiya massacre came from Judge Jyotsna Yagnik. The Special Trial Court convicted Maya Kodnani, who was a sitting BJP MLA, for criminal conspiracy and murder. She was convicted along with 31 people who were convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy and other charges. She was also the first woman, MLA and minister to be convicted in the Gujarat riots case. On 31st August 2012 she was given a 28 year prison term , the first 10 years were for IPC 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and the second for 18 years under Section 302 (murder) and others. The sentences were set to run consecutively according to the judgement which led to a combined term of 28 years.
Throughout the hearing process, Maya Kodnani denied her involvement in the Naroda Patiya massacre claiming she had become a “victim of politics”. Appeals were filed on her behalf and by other victims. The bench headed by Justice Harsha Devani heard the arguments of the SIT team, the acquitted and the convicted for more than 8 months. Proceedings in the case began on December 19, 2016 and concluded last year. Justice R R Tripathi decided to hear Kodnani’s appeal separately by de-linking it from other appeals. The hearings were resumed after Justice Tripathi’s retirement.
The bench of Justice Harsha Devani and AS Supehia had reserved their order in August last year. In a big relief to Maya Kodnani and her personal assistant, Kirpal Singh Chabda, the Gujarat High Court acquitted them of charges by the orders given today. The High Court order upheld the conviction of Babu Bajrangi and Suresh Langado, the other convicts in the crime.
It is a big victory for the former BJP MLA Kodnani and her supporters. The upholding of the conviction of the others involved in the massacre proves that this was an unbiased judgment based on facts and facts alone. This could be construed as another big blow to the Congress Party and its supporters. The unbroken streak of fake news spread by the Congress Party being debunked has gone on for a record five days. Right from the NIA court acquitting the 11 accused in the Mecca Masjid Blast case, the verdict on Justice Loya case, to the semen filled balloon scandal case to the alleged beef lynching incident which were raised and politicized by the Congress Party to suit its agenda have been beaten to the dust. The Gujarat High Court verdict in favor of Maya Kodnani is the fifth blow to the Congress Party in April.