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Naroda Patiya case: Convicts’ lawyer seeks to visit scene of offence

In August 2012, Kodnani, who is out on bail, Babu Bajrangi and 29 others were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Written by Satish Jha | Ahmedabad |
December 20, 2016 4:05:10 am
Maya Kodnani, Naroda Patiya riot case, 2002 Naroda Gam riot case, Naroda police, 2002 Gujarat riots, Naroda Gam riot case, Maya Kodnani Naroda Patiya riot case, ahmedabad news, gujarat news In 2015, the SIT and the victims went to the SC against the HC bench, then headed by Justice R R Tripathi, questioning the priority given to the appeal petition of Maya Kodnani instead of conducting appeals of all convicts together.

Nearly four years after the judgment and 14 years of the incident of Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002, a senior lawyer representing several convicts on Monday sought permission of the Gujarat High Court to visit the scene of offence in order to “understand the topography of the area”.

The move was opposed by the Supreme Court appointed- Special Investigation Team which said that unless the court finds it important the request cannot be permitted.

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A division bench headed by Justice Harsha Devani started hearing the appeal petitions afresh on daily basis. At the beginning of the hearing, senior lawyer BB Naik orally requested the bench to grant permission to visit the scene of offence “to understand the placement of witness in the area which is sensitive”.

Justice Devani sought opinion of SIT lawyer R C Kodekar, who opposed the request saying, “nothing can be done orally unless the court passes an appropriate order”. He also said that such a move can be entertained in accordance with Section 310 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The bench said that this issue can be looked into at a later stage.

On the other hand, when the bench started the hearing the appeal petitions afresh, senior lawyer Yogesh Lakhani narrated the entire sequence of the event from the gathering of a mob, comprising 15,000 to 20,000 people, on February 28, 2002, in the Naroda Patiya locality where 97 Muslims were killed, women were raped and properties were destroyed. He read out the statements of witnesses who have narrated the incident.

Earlier, Justice Akil Kureshi had recused himself from the case on November 18 after Naik joined the petitions to represent several convicts. Justice Kureshi wrote in the recusal order: “When such large number of litigants are involved who are represented by large number of advocates, somewhere or the other it is bound to happen that one out of the two judges of the bench may not be taking up the cases of at least one out of the several advocates appearing. Particularly, when the appearance is made by the senior advocate at a late stage, we wonder would it not have been better if the advocate had recused rather than to request the court to do so.”

Justice Kureshi was the seventh judge who recused from the case. He said in the open court that “it is very painful. We will not say anything but it tarnishes the image of the institution and confidence of people. this should not have happened. I am bound by the court. I have no interest in this case.”

The hearing on these appeal petitions had hit several controversies. In 2015, the SIT and the victims went to the Supreme Court against the High Court bench, then headed by Justice R R Tripathi (retired), questioning the priority given to the appeal petition of Maya Kodnani instead of conducting appeals of all convicts together. The court had stayed the hearings for two months. Following the retirement of Justice Tripathi, a new bench was assigned to take up the case, but in the last one year several senior judges recused from the case.

In August 2012, Kodnani, who is out on bail, Babu Bajrangi and 29 others were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. All the convicts have challenged the judgment.

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