THE Gujarat government has withheld its earlier decision to seek death penalty for former minister Maya Kodnani,once a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi,Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and eight others in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case.Since we want to take the opinion of the Advocate General on the matter,we have withheld our earlier decision, said Gujarat Finance Minister and government spokesperson Nitin Patel. Asked if the Advocate Generals opinion was not taken earlier,Patel did not reply.Last month,the Modi government had decided to endorse the Supreme Court-appointed SITs recommendation to seek death sentence for Kodnani,Babu Bajrangi and the others,and had given its nod for filing an appeal in this regard. But the state government has now asked the special public prosecutor not to file the appeal till further notice.
We were already preparing to file an appeal in the case through the office of the government pleader. In fact,on May 6,we sent the petition with supporting documents to the government pleaders office for filing the appeal. But on May 10,the state government told the government pleaders office not to file the appeal till further notice. And yesterday,I received a fax with the same message, said Prashant Desai,the special public prosecutor in the case.
I do not know under what ground the state government wants to take the Advocate Generals opinion. After receipt of the fax,I have written to the government pleaders office to send me back the draft petition and relevant documents, said Desai.
While SIT chairman R K Raghavan could not be contacted,an SIT official said the state governments reversal of decision was illegal and the SIT may seek redressal from the Supreme Court.
Apart from seeking death for Kodnani and the rest,the state government had also given its consent for moving an appeal seeking enhancement of sentence of 22 other convicts in the case.
While Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in jail by a special court in August 2012 in connection with the post-Godhra riots case in which 96 people were killed,Bajrangi was given a life term.