The Gujarat High Court while disposing of a revision application seeking arraignment of 80 witnesses of Naroda Gam massacre of 2002 post Godhra riots as accused, “kept open” the rights of the petitioners to argue their case before the trial court during final arguments.
A group of accused had moved the High Court in 2013 with a revision application challenging the order of trial court which rejected their pleas for turning 80 witnesses into accused. On July 1, 2013, the then trial judge Jyotsna Yagnik had rejected the application moved through defence lawyer Chetan K Shah who represents majority of the accused.
In Naroda Gam case, 82 accused are facing trial, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, who are accused of killing 11 Muslims. Four of the accused Ashok Patel, Dinesh Thakor, Mahesh Panchal and Navin Kadia moved High Court against the trial court’s order. On September 19, High Court justice R P Dholaria while disposing of the petition on the ground that the trial of the case has already reached at the stage of arguments and therefore petitioners’ right be kept open for advancing their contention during final arguments.
Justice Dholaria’s order notes that “This Court has taken into consideration that the petitioners are some of the accused who are facing trial in the well known Naroda Gam case, who tendered the application under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure praying to implead for about 80 eyewitnesses who alleged to have witnessed the incident and alleged to have participated in the crime in question and sought for arraying them as the accused.”
The order further stated, “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, this Court, without entering into the merits of the case, kept open the rights and contentions of the present petitioners to argue on the point on which the application came to be preferred before the learned trial Court at the time of advancing final arguments.” The petitioners claimed that some of the eyewitnesses and police witnesses deposed in the court in their examination-in-chief and also in cross examination that when the riots broke out “there was cross stone-pelting and throwing of acid bulbs between the two communities.
The defence claimed that 24 eyewitnesses should be arraigned as accused and 56 other eyewitnesses, who allegedly aided the 24 witnesses in the alleged stone-pelting among other offences, should also be arraigned. The defence, citing panchnamas, also claimed that there were incidents of robbery in the houses belonging to Hindus and their properties were also damaged.
The prosecution, SC appointed-SIT, opposed the pleas, saying that it was nothing but a trick to delay the trial. And, allegations against the witnesses were not specific and devoid of evidence.