Gujarat govt takes a U-turn on Kodnani

The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat has rejected the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) request to file an appeal in a higher court for capital punishment for former BJP minister Maya Kodnani in the sensational Naroda Patiya massacre case in which 97 Muslims were killed in 2002.

By Mahesh Trivedi

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Published: Tue 17 Sep 2013, 12:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:40 PM

SIT had sought the state government’s permission to seek enhancement of sentences — death penalty — for Kodnani (58) and five other convicts all of whom had been awarded life imprisonment in the case by a special court.

On May 13, the BJP regime developed cold feet after pretending to show its secular face a month ago by deciding to seek severest penalty of death. It told SIT that it wanted to consult the advocate-general and withdrew its appeal in the Gujarat High Court.

SIT sources told Khaleej Times that the advocate-general had now advised the state administration that Kodnani being a woman, a gynaecologist and a former minister should be spared as there was no ‘direct evidence’ against her and also that she had already been sentenced to 28 years in jail.

A SIT official said the Gujarat government had, however, given a go-ahead to seek death penalty for Babu Bajrangi, leader of the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and four others, who were also awarded a lifer.

Congress leaders say the volte-face on Kodnani followed bitter criticism from right-wing forces, including the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena. In another development, the Gujarat High Court has given time till Tuesday to the state government to produce the original registers, from which some crucial intelligence records pertaining to the 2002 riots were destroyed by it.

The order was passed by the court, on a petition moved by civil rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, seeking directive for the state government to provide the documents.

Bhatt had sought 47 documents from the state police to file a detailed affidavit before the Commission regarding the alleged roles played by different government functionaries during the 2002 riots. However, the state government did not provide Bhatt access to those crucial documents.

Meanwhile, in Jalandhar (Punjab), even as the Shiromani Akali Dal was all praise for Modi following the latter’s nomination as PM candidate by the BJP, many Sikh organizations, including those representing the diaspora, have questioned SAD’s decision to give a clean chit to Modi in the Gujarat riots.

The North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) — which had written to US President Barrack Obama and US senators in first week of August demanding that the ban on Modi’s visit to the US be maintained — has said that Modi was still anti-minorities.

“Modi could not be freed of taint as he was at the helm of affairs in Gujarat, where Muslims were targeted, and shares a similar responsibility. The Sikh philosophy and SAD’s own traditions have been to raise voice against atrocities on any community and not just against Sikhs,” said NAPA executive director Satnam Singh Chahal.

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