Jyotsana Yagnik, the special judge who convicted and handed life terms to former Gujarat minister and BJP leader Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 others in the 2002 massacre of 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya, has received at least 22 threat letters and “blank phone calls” at her home since the August 2012 verdict.
Sixty-two-year-old Yagnik, who has since retired, has informed the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) about the threat letters and phone calls.
Her security cover has been scaled down to Y category from the Z-plus she was granted as Principal City Civil and Sessions Judge in Ahmedabad and she is said to have taken up the matter with the government.
Sources said Yagnik, who retired a few months after the Naroda Patiya massacre case verdict, has been receiving these letters — most are anonymous but one carries the letterhead of a private organisation.
In the letters, she has been threatened over the verdict in the massacre case, the sources said, adding that she has also been receiving “blank phone calls” at night.
Worried about her safety and that of her family, Yagnik informed the SIT.
When contacted, Yagnik, who now heads a law institute on the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar highway, told The Indian Express: “Yes, I have been receiving threat letters and have informed the SIT in a letter I wrote to them.” She declined to speak on the contents of the “threat letters”, the nature of the threat or when she wrote to the SIT.
When his comments were sought, SIT convenor and Additional Director General of Police Ashish Bhatia said that in the last six- eight months, he had not come across threat letters to any judge, including Yagnik. “I don’t know if she received (the letters) before that,” Bhatia said.
Asked if the SIT had received any communication from Yagnik about the threat perception, Bhatia said: “Six to eight months ago, the government scaled down her security category from Z-plus to Y. At that time, she had represented to the government to step up the security cover. However, the security category has been maintained at Y and her request is pending before the government.”
A K Malhotra, SIT officer and a retired DIG, said he had “heard” about the threat letters and calls to Yagnik but did not details.
On August 29, 2012, Yagnik delivered the Naroda Patiya case order, convicting 32 people, among them Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, for their roles in the massacre. Bajrangi was sentenced to life imprisonment till death by Yagnik.
On Kodnani, this is what the judge said: “… it stands proved that A-37 (Maya Kodnani) was not a member of the unlawful assembly but was a kingpin and one of the principal conspirators”.
Sentenced to life in jail, Kodnani was released on bail by the Gujarat High Court in July last year. On April 23 this year, Bajrangi was granted bail for three months after he claimed he was turning blind.