Former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani, who is serving a life term in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, sought regular bail from the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday. The division bench of Justices A S Dave and Sonia Gokani, however, recused themselves from the case. Kodnani’s lawyer, Mitesh Amin, said that the matter is likely to be taken up on Wednesday. He said the bail plea has been filed solely on the grounds of merit.
Challenging the witnesses for giving “embellished statements” against her, Kodnani moved the bail application even as her petition challenging the the judgment of the special court has been pending before the Gujarat HC since December 2012. In August 2012, a Special SIT court had awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 other convicts in connection with the 2002 riots at Naroda Patiya in which 97 people were brutally killed.
The court had named Kodnani, a minister in former Gujarat Chief Minster Narendra Modi’s Cabinet, as “a kingpin of riots”. Kodnani was the MLA of Naroda at the time of riots. She was made Minister of State for Women and Child Development in 2007. The three-time legislator is the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case.
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“We have filed the bail application on merit since witnesses are not credible. There are contradiction in the statements of witnesses. There are two witnesses whose statements are contradictory, yet the court relied upon them. Besides, we have evidence showing that Kodnani was not there at the spot,” Amin said.
Amin said that while pronouncing the sentence, the lower court relied upon witnesses’ statement that Kodani was seen at the spot, but the same court refused to believe that Kodnani distributed swords to the rioters. Kodnani has also cited her health condition as ground for her regular bail. She has been suffering from intestinal tuberculosis and undergoing electric shock therapy for the last couple of months. In her plea, she has stated that since her appeal is not likely to be heard in the near future, she moved the bail application on merit.