A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday passed an order for visiting the scene of the offence in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case and also warned the media against “any intervention”.
The division bench led by Justice Harsha Devani — hearing a set of appeals of the convicts — has directed the prosecution lawyers to “maintain total confidentiality about the date and time on which we would be visiting the scene of offence”.
The Indian Express in March had reported that the bench orally told the defence lawyers and the public prosecutors that it wanted to visit the spot.
The bench in Wednesday’s order stated: “Right from the beginning since the matters are being heard, the learned counsel for the respective parties have been requesting this court to visit the scene of incident so as to get a better idea of the manner in which the incident has occurred.”
The bench observed that this request was reasonable considering the evidence which has come on record. The order said: “Under the circumstances, we are inclined to visit the scene of offence. However, with a view to avoid unnecessary media attention, the date and time would be communicated to the learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the purpose of making necessary arrangements.”
The bench also noted that “any intervention by the media during the course of such visit would amount to interference with judicial proceedings”.
Ninety-seven Muslims were killed in the Naroda Patiya massacre on February 28,2002. In 2012, a special court had convicted 31 people, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The division bench is hearing appeals by all the convicts and petitions by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, which has sought enhancement of the sentence and challenged several acquittals.