Two judges of a Gujarat High Court bench, which is hearing appeal petitions of those convicted in the Naroda Patiya riots case, on Thursday visited the spot where 97 Muslims were killed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots. They visited the place to understand the topography of the place. The judges were accompanied by prosecution and defence lawyers. On Wednesday, the bench had passed an order about their visit and had directed prosecution lawyers to maintain confidentiality.
The order had also stated that “any intervention by the media during the course of such visit would amount to interference with judicial proceedings.”
Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A S Supehia reached the spot at 3:45 pm and remained there for over one and half hours.
A police team, comprising members of the Special Investigation Team which is investigating the case, was also present at the spot. The judges visited Noorani Masjid, ST bus stand and also saw the location of Teesra Kuwan, a well where dead bodies were allegedly dumped during the riot.
“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 and to understand the topography of the area which is spread over a considerable area,” the bench had observed on Wednesday.
The bench observed that this request is reasonable considering the evidence on record.
The order stated that “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.”
Earlier this year, the defence lawyers and public prosecutors had also visited the spot and during the hearing they had requested the bench to visit the place to understand the description of the crime.
Naroda Patiya massacre is the worst case of post-Godhra riots that took place on February 28, 2002.
In 2012, a special designated court convicted 31 people, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi among others and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The division bench is hearing the appeal petitions moved by all the convicts and also petitions by the SIT which has sought enhancement of sentence and opposed the acquittal of several accused.