Appearing as a defence witness in a post-Godhra riot case, BJP president Amit Shah told the designated court Monday that he saw key accused Maya Kodnani in the Gujarat Assembly around 8.30 am and again around 11-11.15 am at the Sola Civil Hospital on February 28, 2002, the day 11 Muslims were killed in Naroda Gam.
Shah deposed as a witness after being summoned by the court on an application moved by Kodnani to prove her alibi that she was not present at Naroda Gam at the time the offence was committed — contrary to the claim of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), the prosecution agency in this case.
“I, Amit Anilchandra Shah, 53, national president of BJP, was a member of Sarkhej Assembly constituency. On February 28, 2002 at around 7.30-7.45 am, I left for Assembly where a condolence for the victims of Godhra carnage was held at around 8.30 am where I saw Mayaben Kodnani,” he said.
According to Shah, he left the Assembly premises for Sola Civil Hospital to know about the situation and reached there around 9.30 am. Bodies of kar sevaks, killed in the train carnage at Godhra a day earlier, had been brought to the hospital. “There were families of the victims, there was chaos. Post-mortem and identification of bodies were going on. Sloganeering too was on against the incident,” Shah said.
Asked by Kodnani’s lawyer Amit Patel who all did he see at that time, Shah replied he saw Kodnani, Natubhai Vaghela, Jaideep Patel (another accused) and others.
“Since slogans were being shouted against the incident and there was chaos, a police team escorted me and Mayaben out of the hospital and took us to a police jeep since my vehicle was parked a little far. I can’t say exactly but it was around 11 am to 11.15 am. I was dropped near Gota chowkdi where I got into my own vehicle,” Shah said. He said he didn’t see where Kodnani went from the hospital.
Among 82 accused in the case, she wants to prove her alibi that on the day of the Naroda Gam killings, she was not at the spot. She has already been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Naroda Patiya massacre case in which 97 Muslims were killed.
Following questioning by Kodnani’s lawyer, Special Public Prosecutor Suresh C Shah cross-examined Amit Shah. Special judge P B Desai told the BJP president: “Don’t get into an argument… Ask to repeat the question… don’t answer till you recollect.”
Shah replied in the affirmative to the question that both he and Kodnani were members of the Legislative Assembly at the time of offence and that she also became a minister in the government later. When the prosecutor asked him how did he get to know about the (Godhra) incident, Shah said that the then (state) Home Minister had announced it in the Assembly around 11-11.30 am on February 27. He also said there was a bandh call given the next day in protest against the incident.
During the cross-examination, Shah said that on February 28, the Assembly proceedings started around 8.30 am and ended within 15-20 minutes. He said he saw Kodnani while he was leaving the hospital under police escort and he didn’t see her later.
When the prosecutor asked him whether he knew the distance between the Assembly and Naroda Gam, Shah replied in the negative. He said he never went to Naroda Gam. He also said he knew that the SIT was formed by the order of the Supreme Court and Mayaben was arrested by SIT.
Asked by the public prosecutor whether he gave any statement in Naroda Patiya, Shah denied it. “I was not summoned. At that time I was contacted (by Kodnani)… SIT had all the information (SIT ne badhi khabar hati) but it never called me.” At this juncture, special judge Desai intervened but Shah said, “Let me complete. SIT knew everything but did not contact me.”
Following the deposition of Shah, the trial will now take up final arguments in the case which will commence September 25. In Naroda Gam, the SIT chargesheet states, Kodnani was seen by about 14 eyewitnesses between 9 am and 10.30 am on February 28, 2002, where she briefly addressed the mob, allegedly asking them to kill Muslims. Apart from oral evidence the SIT also relied on the electronic evidence in the form of mobile call detail records (CDRs) that showed her presence in the locality.
Kodnani maintains she never went to the spot. She has been booked for conspiracy, murder, illegal assembly, inciting communal hatred among other charges.
According to the SIT, Kodnani attended the Gujarat Assembly proceedings which was suspended after paying condolences to the victims of the train burning incident. She left the Assembly around 8.40 am and reached Naroda Gam and then proceeded to Naroda Patiya. The SIT claims that her arrival there was part of the same conspiracy which led to the killing of Muslims in Naroda Patiya too. Since there were different set of mobs, two separate FIRs were filed by Naroda police.