Former BJP minister Maya Kodnani has filed an application in the Gujarat High Court seeking summons on eight people, including BJP president Amit Shah, as defence witnesses in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. The court on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file a reply on the petition. Last week, Kodnani got permission from the special trial court hearing the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre case to examine 14 people, including Shah, as her defence witnesses. Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her role in the Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 people were killed. It was the biggest massacre of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Senior counsel Nirumpam Nanavati, who appeared for Kodnani, told The Indian Express, “The application has been moved requesting the court to take additional evidence in the interest of justice since the prosecution dropped important witnesses without assigning reasonable reasons. This has caused prejudice and therefore adverse inference should be made against the prosecution or additional evidence may be taken so that the truth can be brought in the court.”
Sources in the SIT said they would oppose the move. “We will oppose the application as such a move is immaterial in appeals. We will file our reply tomorrow,” a source said. The court hearing the Naroda Gam case had last week said on Kodnani’s application, “It is ordered that the witness summons be issued on the persons particularised in the application, at the appropriate and relevant stage of the trial.” It had also said that the prosecution (SIT) did not file any reply nor objected to the petition even though it had the opportunity to do so.
Kodnani was convicted in the Naroda Patiya case in 2012 along with 30 other accused, including Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi. Currently on bail, Kodnani has challenged her conviction in the high court. A division bench of the high court, comprising Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A S Supehia, is hearing the case on a daily basis for several months.
On Tuesday Kodnani moved a petition before the division bench seeking permission to produce eight persons —- Amit Anilchandra Shah, ex-BJP MLA Amrish Govind Patel, Dr Dhaval Shah, Dhirajbhai Lakhabhai Rathod, MD Lakhiya, Shantilal Soni, Kantibhai Solanki and Jagdish Ishwar Patel —- as defence witnesses.
SIT sources said that Kodnani moved the petition under Section 391 of Code of Criminal Procedure that says, “In dealing with any appeal under this Chapter, the Appellate Court, if it thinks additional evidence to be necessary, shall record its reasons and may either take such evidence itself, or direct it to be taken by a Magistrate, or when the Appellate Court is a High Court, by a Court of Session or a Magistrate.” The petition also cited Section 311 of CrPC that has provision for summoning material witness.