The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday granted regular bail to former BJP minister Dr Maya Kodnani. Kodnani, who was named “kingpin” in the Naroda Patiya riot in which 97 persons were killed in February 2002, had been detected with tuberculosis and was suffering from depression. She is serving a life term extending up to 28 years and has been out on interim bail on similar grounds.
The division bench of justices VM Sahai and RP Dholaria granted the bail and directed her release from Sabarmati Central jail where she is lodged. Following the order her husband Surendra and her brother Narayan Meghani broke down outside the court.
While granting the bail the court observed that Kodnani is sick, there are certain contradictions and improvements in the statements of witnesses implicating her in the case. Her appeal challenging the conviction is also pending in the High Court where she has the grounds of contradictory evidences against her which were taken into consideration by the special court while sentencing her.
The High Court’s order comes as a big relief to Kodnani who is suffering from several ailments. Earlier she had been granted temporary bail on medical grounds twice. However, her petition seeking extension of bail had also been rejected. Kodnani, a gynecologist and women and child development minister in the former Narendra Modi government, was one of the 32 persons convicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, and also faces a criminal trial in the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre case.
In Naroda Patiya, 97 persons were killed whereas in Naroda Gam, 11 persons were killed by mobs on February 28, 2002. In Naroda Patiya case, she has been awarded life imprisonment. The trial court had in August 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for Naroda Patiya incident.
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The court while granting the bail said that prima facie there is some lacuna in the evidence against her. The court also considered her age, 59 and her various ailments which she is going through for past couple of years.
Kodnani had sought bail on two grounds- her health and merit of the case in which she was convicted. She had claimed that the evidence against her, in the form of 11 witnesses, was no sufficient. The statements of the witnesses are not credible, contradictory and improved.