After orally requesting the division bench of the Gujarat High Court not to make any observations while deciding on the appeal petition of former minister Maya Kodnani, who has been awarded life imprisonment in the Naroda Patiya riot case, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) submitted a written application before the bench, pleading not to decide her petition exclusively when there are other cognate appeals by co-convicts.
On Monday, when Kodnani’s appeal came up for hearing, SIT reiterated its stand that Kodnani’s case should be heard along with all the other connected appeals filed by the co-convicts. The division bench, headed by justice Ravi R Tripathi, said, “No difficulty, we will decide on this application with the main matter.”
Last week, SIT had orally requested the division bench on similar ground after Kodnani’s lawyer, senior counsel Nirupam Nanavati, finished his arguments. The bench had orally assured the SIT that it will take care of the latter’s apprehension while deciding on Kodnani’s appeal.
On Saturday, SIT submitted a written application, signed by IPS officer Himanshu Shukla, a member of SIT, addressed to the acting Chief Justice of the High Court, praying “to conduct all the cognate appeals arising out of the same crime together”. The application states, “…considering the provision of the CrPC, more particularly section 393, it is submitted that the finding given by the court on various points in the ongoing appeal will attain finality and therefore for the proper appreciation of the evidence on record qua all the accused person, all the appeals be heard together.”
Justice Tripathi orally assured that the bench will decide on SIT application while concluding Kodnani’s petition.
Last month, the lawyer of a victim had submitted an application before acting Chief Justice V M Sahai as well as registrar general, requesting to the change the bench on the ground that in the past justice Tripathi had recused himself from hearing a connected case.
Earlier in the court, SIT counsel Prashant Desai resumed arguments opposing Kodnani’s appeal. He narrated the background of riots at Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002, and its seriousness. He said that a total of 95 persons were killed while three were presumed to be dead as their bodies were never recovered. “Out of 95 victims, there were 37 children and 29 women. In this ghastly riots, small children were largely affected,” he said, adding that he wanted to play a video film in court which was recorded by the police that will help the court to estimate the seriousness of the incident. Desai argued on alibi of Kodnani, saying she failed to bring a “positive evidence suggesting that she was not present on the scene of offence.”
“In the trial court, there is only denial of every allegation she was charged with, but she didn’t bring any positive evidence supporting alibi. To prove that she was not there on the spot, she should have given enough evidence,” Desai said, adding that her call detail records were not reliable since in those days finding the exact location through mobile towers was not accurate due to lesser number of towers. The arguments will continue on Tuesday.
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