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Indian court acquits Modi ally jailed over deadly Gujarat riots

Maya Kodnani acquitted in Naroda Patiya case

The HC disbelieved private witnesses' testimonies in Bajrangi's case too but upheld his conviction on the basis of statements given by four policemen. Out of the 16 convicts, all except one have been sentenced to 21 years of rigorous imprisonment.

The remaining got simple life imprisonment (14 years). Talking to Mirror, Maya Kodnani's counsel Hardik Dave said: "I welcome the decision of the High Court acquitting my client after going through 1.20 lakh documents and giving patient hearing to witnesses, accused, victims and counsels".

While the convicts challenged the lower courts order in the high court, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appealed against the acquittal of 29 people.

In 2012, Kodnani, a gynaecologist, was sentenced to jail for her role in the riots in Naroda Patiya where around 100 Muslims were killed in three days violence that followed the Godhra train burning of February 27, 2002, in which 59 Hindu volunteers were killed.

Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani welcomed the verdict given by Gujarat High Court in favour of former Minister Maya Kodnani.

The Gujarat High Court's verdict came a day after Supreme Court of India dismissed a number of petitions seeking probe into the death of Justice Loya. In 2012, special judge Jyotsna Yagnik had convicted 32 persons - including Kodnani and Bajrangi - and acquitted 29 others. Since evidence failed the "two credible witnesses test" in many cases, 18 of 31 convicts were acquitted.

"Accused 37 (Kodnani) has been proved to be the kingpin of the entire communal riot and one of the principal conspirators who has actively instigated the rioters and has abetted them to form unlawful assembly to execute the conspiracy hatched under her leadership with other co-conspirators."
The judgment was pronounced on the appeals filed by the former BJP minister and others against their conviction by the SIT court.

Both Kodnani and Bajrangi were on indefinite bail thereby making a mockery of the judicial impartiality in the state.

Kodnani entered politics in 1995, when she contested in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections. Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was given imprisonment until death.

Talking about the court's reasons for acquitting Kodnani, Desai said that though there were 11 witnesses who had said that she was present at the site and gave a speech, the court found contradictions in the statements.

BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel welcomed the judgement.