Can’t contact my witness Amit Shah, Maya Kodnani tells Gujarat court

In March this year, Kodnani sought permission from the court to examine 14 persons in her defence, including Amit Shah, her husband Surendra, two BJP leaders and her business partner.

Written by Satish Jha | Ahmedabad | Published: September 9, 2017 4:39:29 am
Amit Shah, Maya Kodnani, Amit Shah defence witness, Naroda Patiya massacre case, India news, Indian Express  Amit Shah in Bhubaneswar on Friday. (PTI Photo)

Former Gujarat minister and BJP leader Maya Kodnani, sentenced to life imprisonment in the Naroda Patiya massacre case during the 2002 riots, moved a fresh application Friday before the special trial court hearing the Naroda Gam riots case and sought more time to serve summons to BJP president Amit Shah to appear in her defence in court. She said till date she hadn’t been able to contact Shah.

In her application, moved by lawyer Hiren Patel, Kodnani said: “I want to inform this court that this applicant accused has tried to contact my defence witness (Shah), but till today I couldn’t contact him and under these circumstances, I couldn’t examine this witness… therefore, in the name of justice, grant me ten more days to exercise my right.”

Special judge P B Desai granted her four more days — until September 12 — to serve summons to Shah in her defence and said the court will not adjourn the case thereafter. At the last hearing, the special judge told lawyers for the defence and prosecution to begin final arguments since this case had to be wrapped up in four months as per directions of the Supreme Court.

Kodnani, who was present in court, declined to speak to reporters later. Incidentally, Shah is scheduled to be in Ahmedabad September 10 for the Adikham Gujarat Yuva Town Hall event, part of a programme to reach out to one lakh young voters in the poll-bound state.

In her application, Kodnani said: “In this case, my defence witness, Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah, is president of Bharatiya Janata Party… busy with lot of work, due to which he cannot be contacted. Because of this, it’s not ascertained as to which address the summons, for his appearance in court, be served… my application to reserve my right to examine the witness has been granted till today… I have tried to contact this defence witness but till now have not been able to contact him.”

Kodnani is among 82 accused in the Naroda Gam case in which 11 Muslims were killed on February 28, 2002, a day after the Sabarmati Express was torched at the Godhra railway station, killing 59 on board coach S-6, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya. She is accused of conspiracy, murder among other charges in the Naroda Gam case.

In March this year, Kodnani sought permission from the court to examine 14 persons in her defence, including Shah, her husband Surendra, two BJP leaders and her business partner. She wanted to prove her alibi that on February 28, 2002, the day the riots broke out, she was at the Gujarat Assembly, then at the Sola civil hospital, her maternity home in Asarva, civil hospital in Asarva and her home — and not at the massacre site.

In April, the special court allowed her application, observing “…in the absence of any objections and while recognising the right of the accused to examine defence witnesses, I am of the opinion that the number of witnesses sought to be examined is neither unreasonable nor unjustified. In the event, and more particularly when the prosecution (Supreme Court appointed-SIT) has not raised any serious objection whatsoever to the present application, I am of the opinion that the application is required to be allowed.”

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