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Thursday, December 02, 2021

The Maya Kodnani Files: the cases against her, where they stand now

BJP president Amit Shah on Monday appeared as a defence witness in the Naroda Gam case, one of two in which former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani is accused. What is this case, and what is its current status? What is the other case, the one in which 97 Muslims were killed in Naroda Patiya?

Written by Satish Jha |
Updated: September 19, 2017 6:30:34 am
naroda gam case, naroda patiya case, Maya Kodnani Files, VHP leader Jaideep Patel, kar sevak attacks, Naroda Patiya judgment, gujarat riots Maya Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel are taken to court in 2009. Express Archive/Harsh Shah

Naroda Gam Case
CURRENT STATUS: All accused are on bail

According to the Special Investigation Team (SIT), the prosecuting agency, a mob of about 1,500 individuals had gathered at Baghol, Naroda Gam, around 9 am on February 28, 2002, to enforce a bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to protest the attack on kar sevaks travelling by Sabarmati Express at Godhra the day before.

Maya Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel arrived on the scene in their vehicles between 9 am and 9.30 am from different directions, the agency said. Both of them allegedly proceeded to give hate speeches to incite the already agitated mob, which then went on the rampage, attacking and setting fire to properties around them. They targeted a nearby mosque, and burnt a tea stall, the SIT has alleged. One person was allegedly set on fire near Bank of Baroda Street, and another five were burnt at Chandubhai ki Chaali.

In all, 11 persons were killed in rioting. The Supreme Court-appointed SIT took over the case from local police, and achieved a major breakthrough with the arrests of Kodnani, Patel and others in 2009.

Kodnani, who was also the local MLA at the time, was charged with leading the mob and of instigating them to avenge the killing of kar sevaks in the train at Godhra. The SIT’s chargesheet named 14 eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen her at the spot, inciting rioters and telling them to kill Muslims. One of the witnesses testified to having seen her sitting with the then Naroda police inspector.

Naroda Patiya Case
CURRENT STATUS: Hearing on convicts’ appeals concluded last month, judgment is awaited

The Muslim locality of Naroda Patiya is less than 2 km from Naroda Gam. On February 28, 2002, it became the site of one of the worst massacres of the Gujarat riots — 97 Muslims were killed by mobs. Kodnani was accused of reaching the spot where a large mob had assembled, and of inflaming the situation. Eleven eyewitnesses claimed to have seen her getting off her car, surrounded by the mob. She allegedly addressed them and incited them to kill Muslims.

In 2012, a designated special court found Kodnani guilty. The court held that she was among the “principal conspirators” of the riots, and while there is no evidence of her having been part of the unlawful assembly, her role as the “kingpin” of the conspiracy was proved beyond doubt. The judgment said: “Accused 37 (Kodnani) has been proved to be the kingpin of the entire communal riot and one of the principal conspirators who has actively instigated the rioters and has abetted them to form unlawful assembly to execute the conspiracy hatched under her leadership with other co-conspirators.”

In July 2014, a division Bench of the Gujarat High Court led by then Acting Chief Justice V M Sahai granted Kodnani bail on the ground that she was suffering from “intestinal tuberculosis with IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] and gastro reflux disease and with severe weight loss”.

The order granting her bail underscored the fact that the designated court had acquitted her “as being a member of unlawful assembly and convicted her for hatching conspiracy with thousands of people who were members of a mob”.

The Naroda Patiya judgment is under challenge in the Gujarat High Court, where Kodnani’s lawyers have argued that there is not enough evidence against her. The 11 witnesses who have testified against her allegedly contradict each other about her presence at the scene of the offence, as also about the role she played. A division Bench headed by Justice Harsha Devani has reserved its judgment. The judgment will have direct bearing on the Naroda Gam case, in which Kodnani is facing identical charges.

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