BJP national president Amit Shah on Monday testified before a Special Investigation Team (SIT) court as a defence witness for the key accused and former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Gam massacre case. During his deposition, Shah told the court that he met Kodnani in the state assembly in Gandhinagar around 8.30 am and subsequently at the Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad around 11 am to 11.30 am on February 28, 2002, the day when the carnage took place in Naroda. In the chargesheet, SIT, however, alleged that Kodnani left the assembly at 8.40 am and reached Naroda Gam at around 9.30 am. The investigation team also claimed that signals from Kodnani’s mobile phone suggested that she was at the spot till 10.30 am. Both Shah and Kodnani were MLAs in the Narendra Modi-led state government in 2002.
Three weeks ago, the apex court had directed the SIT court to conclude the trial within four months. Chief Justice J S Khehar-headed bench had asked the lower court to complete recording of evidence of defence witnesses in two months.
What is Naroda Gam riot case?
Kodnani is accused of leading and instigating a mob in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam to exact revenge for the deaths of kar sevaks killed in the Godhra train carnage. The former BJP minister is among the 82 accused who are facing trial for allegedly killing 11 Muslims in Naroda Gam area in Ahmedabad, a day after the Sabaramati Express was torched at the Godra railway station, killing 59 on board coach S-6, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya. The incident is one of the nine major 2002 communal riot cases which were probed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. In addition to rioting and murder, Kodnani has also been charged with criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder in the case.
She was held guilty of similar charges and sentenced to 28 years in jail for her role in the Naroda Patiya riot in which 96 people were massacred. However, she has been out on bail citing health grounds since 2014.