Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday acquitted former minister and BJP leader Maya Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case for which she was handed a 28-year prison sentence by a trial court.
The High Court upheld the conviction of the other high-profile accused in the case, Bajrang Dal's Babu Bajrangi.
The court acquitted Maya Kodnani after giving her the benefit of doubt. The bench said charges against Kodnani could not be established.
A division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya had reserved the order in August 2017 after hearing concluded.
Earlier, a special court for Special Investigation Team (SIT) cases had sentenced 32 people, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, to life imprisonment in August 2012. Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to imprisonment till death.
The SIT court had given seven accused enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years, which they will serve after undergoing 10 years' imprisonment under IPC section 326 (causing grievous hurt).
The remaining accused, of the total 32, were given simple life imprisonment of 14 years.
The trial court had acquitted 29 accused for want of evidence.
While the convicts challenged the lower court's order in the High Court, the SIT appealed against the acquittal of 29 people.
Ninety seven people, mainly women and children, were killed at Naroda Patia, a day after the Godhra carnage.
The Naroda Patiya riots was one of the worst massacres which followed the Godhra train burning on February 27, 2002, in which 59 kar sevaks were killed.
The Special Investigation Team probing Naroda Patiya had argued that a day after the riots, Maya Kodnani was seen inciting mobs at the spot by witnesses. The tirla court held she organised the mass killings.
Kodnani, who has been out on bail since 2014, is also an accused in the riots next door to Naroday Patiya – Naroda Gram – on the same day, February 28, 2002. Eleven Muslims were killed in Naroda Gram.
BJP President Amit Shah had testified as a defence witness last September, and said he saw Kodnani in Assembly on the day of the riots and then at the Shola Civil Hospital where bodies of those killed in Godhra had been brought. Kodnani is a gynaecologist.
In 2002, when the riots took place, Kodnani was a BJP leader. She was made a Cabinet minister by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2007. She held the portfolio of Minister for Women and Child Development till 2009 when she was arrested. She got bail in 2014.