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Kodnani gets 28-year jail; life term for 31

AHMEDABAD, August 31, 2012, DHNS: 1:40 IST

Bajrang leader to be in prison ‘till alive’

Former Gujarat minister and a member of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Maya Kodnani, center, is escorted by her husband on her arrival at a special court in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. The special court in western India announced sentences Friday for 32 people, including Kodnani, found guilty of charges ranging from murder to rioting for their part in deadly religious violence in 2002. The religious violence began following a train fire on Feb. 27, 2002, that killed 60 Hindu pilgrims. Muslims were blamed for the fire, leading to weeks of rioting in which Hindu mobs rampaged through towns and villages burning Muslim homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
A special court in Ahmedabad on Friday sentenced former Gujarat minister and sitting Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Maya Kodnani to 28 years in prison, terming her the “kingpin of the riots” in the Naroda Patiya case.

In what is being seen as an extraordinary judgment, the court also ordered another accused, Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Bajrang Dal in Gujarat, to be put behind bars “till alive”.

The judge also handed down 31-year prison terms to seven other accused and sentenced another 22 people to 24 years behind bars.

The quantum of punishment was not announced for one of the accused, Suresh alias Shahjad Nekalkar, as he was not present in the court.

Delivering her 1,900-page judgment in a packed courtroom, Special judge Jyotsna Yagnik made some stinging remarks on one of the worst riots during the post-Godhra carnage in 2002. She described the Naroda Patiya massacre as “a black chapter” in the secular democratic history of India.

Kodnani, MLA from Naroda, was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment for criminal conspiracy and murder and 10 years for arson.

The court observed that the 10-year term for arson would not run concurrent with the main sentence of 18 years. It means Kodnani will spend 28 years in prison.

Bajrangi was sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment till death. The court observed that Kodnani was the kingpin in the case and she along with Bajrangi were the key conspirators. The other seven who were sentenced 21 years’ imprisonment included Naresh Chara, Morli Sindhi, Haresh Rathod, Suresh Langado, Premchand Tiwari, Manojbhai Sindhi Kukrani and Bipin Panchal.

On Wednesday, the court convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 in the biggest pogrom in the violence that enveloped Gujarat following the burning of a train coach comprising karsevaks from Ayodhya that killed 64.

The special public prosecutor sought capital punishment for the convicts during the hearing for quantum of punishment. He argued that as the court had upheld the aspect of murder and criminal conspiracy, this was a fit case to be termed “rarest of rare” and that the court should award capital punishment to the convicts. If the court wanted to be lenient, then at least it should award minimum of 20 years of imprisonment to each of the convicts, he argued.

Defence advocate Niranjan Tikani appealed to the court to show leniency towards the convicts, keeping in mind their family background and financial condition.

But the court had some strong words on the riot case. “Communal riots are like cancer on constitutional secularism and the incident in Naroda Patiya was a black chapter in the history of the Indian Constitution,” the Judge observed. She further ruled that the incident was a pre-planned conspiracy and “it cannot be mitigated just by saying it was a reaction to the Godhra train burning incident.” The judge described Kodnani as the “kingpin of entire riots” that took place in Naroda Patiya.

“She led the mob and incited them for violence. She abetted and supported the mob, it said. Acts of communal violence are brutal, inhuman and shameful. It (Naroda) was a clear incident of human rights violation. The climax of this inhuman violence was reflected in the murder of an infant, who was 20-day-old,” the Court noted.

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