Activists, victims have hailed the court’s ruling in the Naroda Patiya mass murder, which awarded life imprisonment to BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 other convicts.
The Court named Kodnani, a sitting MLA and former Gujarat Minister, as "a kingpin of riots" in Naroda area and sentenced her to 18-year life imprisonment after serving 10 years jail term under IPC Section 326 (voluntary causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means). Bajrangi, another high profile accused, will have to spend his entire remaining life behind bars, it said and described communal violence as "cancer".
Seven other convicts were given jail term of 21 years by Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik. They will also have to first serve 10-year imprisonment under Section 326. The remaining 22 convicts were given simple life imprisonment (14 years).
However, 29 accused were acquitted in the case.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been working for Gujarat riot victims for the past several years, it is a historic judgement as it has established that no matter how powerful and politically influential the accused might be, he/she can also get convicted.
"The raw courage of the victim-witnesses, especially the women who deposed fearlessly while still living in Naroda Patiya, is a reflection of the confidence generated by the trial," she said.
"Eleven eyewitnesses have deposed…assigning in detail the role played by Maya Kodnani in inciting the mob to murder; fifteen witnesses deposed against Babu Bajrangi; 48 have testified to the crimes committed by Suresh alias Langda Chhara who has been convicted for rape," she added.
Another activist said, “country has seen many riots. But for the first time people who committed this act have been punished. This judgement will spread a very good message.”
97 people were killed brutally within a day which included helpless women, children, aged persons. The climax of this inhuman and brutal act of violence was reflected in murder of an infant, who was 20-day old.
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.