Ahemdabad: A special court on Wednesday convicted BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, a former minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 30 other people in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patiya case in which 97 people were burnt alive.
The court acquitted 29 others. The massacre took place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.
Kodnani is the first significant BJP politician as well as the first woman to be convicted in a post-Godhra riots case and faces the death sentence. She and Bajrangi were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, murder and attempt to murder.
This is also the sixth 2002 case investigated by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT ), which has seen convictions.
All the convicts have been charged with murder,criminalconspiracy, rioting, arson, attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, insulting religious sentiments by targeting religious places and fanning communal hatred.
The court also convicted three persons — Suresh Didawala alias Langado, Manubhai Maruda and Mukesh Rathod alias Vakil — of gang rape. This is only the second post-Godhra case in which rape charges have been proved, the first being the Bilkis Bano case.
The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 people, while one accused died during the course of trial. The judgment runs into 1927 pages. The judge heard the case for 37 months and prosecution examined 327 witnesses comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials and forensicexperts.JournalistAshishKhetan, who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused, was also examined by the court.
The Gujarat police had arrested 46 people initially, whereas 24 more people were apprehended after the probe was handed over to the SIT in 2008.