Ahmedabad: Maya Kodnani, BJP MLA and former minister in the Narendra Modi government, was on Friday sentenced to 28 years in jail for her involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra Naroda Patiya riots case.
Former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, who was also convicted in the case, has been awarded life imprisonment till death. The remaining 30 convicts were also awarded life term by a special court here.
Kodnani would serve the jail term under different Sections of the IPC; 10 years under Section 326 and 18 years under Sections 120 (B)(criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder).
Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area who was considered to be close to Modi, is the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case.
Kodnani, who was an MLA at the time of the riots, was made minister of state for women and child development in 2007 but had to resign after she was arrested in March 2009.
Of the 29 other convicts, seven were given a jail term of 21 years by an Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik. Like 57-year-old Kodnani, they will also have to first serve 10-year imprisonment under Section 326 IPC (voluntary causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means).
The remaining 22 convicts were given simple life imprisonment (14 years) by the court which described communal violence as "cancer" on Constitutional secularism.
Special court judge Jyotsana Yagnik had however acquitted 29 accused in the case in which 97 people belonging to the minority community were killed.
The court while delivering the landmark verdict rejected the defence`s argument that communal violence in Naroda Patiya was a reaction to Godhra train burning incident.
Naroda was a pre-planned conspiracy: Court
"This was a pre-planned conspiracy and it cannot be mitigated just by saying that it was a reaction of Godhra train burning incident. There cannot be justification of crime for doing another crime as nobody can take law in their own hands," it said.
The court, however, said, "The violence was to display the sparking displeasure and total disapproval to the Godhra carnage which, in fact was the motive of the accused.”
The court in its order observed that, "28/2/2002 became the day of cyclone of violence, one of the black chapters in the history of democratic India where violation of human rights and constitutional rights were publicly done by the assaulter on the victims".
"Acts of communal violence was brutal, inhuman and shameful, it was a clear incident of human rights violation as 97 people were killed brutally within the day which included helpless women, children, aged persons and the climax of this inhuman and brutal act of violence was reflected in murder of an infant who was 20 days old," the court said highlighting the enormity of the crime.
Though maintaining that death penalty was "desirable" to reduce crime in the society, the court said it believes that such a punishment "undermines human dignity".
"Death penalty brings justice and it is desirable to reduce the crime in the society but this court cannot overlook the global trend prevalent in recent years as by 2009, 139 countries have repealed death sentence and there is a global campaign against death penalty and progressive societies are advocating for restricting death penalty and this court believes use of death undermines human dignity".
Explaining the details of the sentence, Special Public Prosecutor Akhil Desai said that the life term awarded to Kodnani and other convicts apart from Bajrangi are under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
He said that in India, someone convicted to a life sentence is entitled to remission after 14 years imprisonment. However Kodnani will only be entitled to remission after 28 years, while Bajarangi will stay in jail till his death.
Desai said that he respects the decision of the court not to give the death sentence adding that the court has taken cognizance of the suffering of the victims.
More than 10 years after a mob hacked and burnt to death the 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya here on Feb 28, 2002, the special court had on Wednesday convicted 32 people, including Kodnani and Bajrangi, for the massacre.
In 2009, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case as well as other cases relating to the Gujarat riots in which 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Of the 64 people accused in the case, three died during trial. The remaining 61 accused were tried for murder, arson and rioting. Most of them were out on bail.
A total of 327 witnesses and 2,500 documentary evidences were presented to court in the case.
Among the 2002 riots cases probed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in which rulings have come, Naroda is the only case where convicts (32) outnumber those acquitted (29).
In the Godhra train carnage case, court had convicted 31 and acquitted 63. In Sardarpura case, court had convicted 31 and acquitted 42, while in Dipda Darwaja case, 22 had been convicted and 61 acquitted.
With agencies inputs