AHMEDABAD : The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) will challenge before the Gujarat High Court the recent acquittal of all 67 accused in the 2002 Naroda Gam riot case by a special court, sources said.
Ahmedabad-based court of S K Baxi, special judge for Special Investigation Team cases, on April 20 acquitted all 67 accused, including former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, more than two decades after 11 Muslims were killed during post-Godhra riots in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Gam area.
“The SIT will definitely file an appeal in the Gujarat High Court against the lower court’s order in the Naroda Gam case. Since the copy of the SIT court’s judgement is awaited, a final call will be taken after studying the verdict,” a source in SIT said, reports PTI.
The massacre at Naroda Gam was one of the nine major 2002 communal riots cases investigated by the SC-appointed SIT and heard by special courts.
The SIT took over the probe from the Gujarat Police in 2008 and arrested more than 30 persons.
Apart from Kodnani (67) and Bajrangi, former VHP leader Jaydeep Patel was also acquitted in the case by the special court.
There were a total of 86 accused in the case, of which 18 died during the pendency of the trial, while one was discharged by the court earlier under section 169 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) due to insufficient evidence against him.
Notably, lawyers of the victims’ families had already said the special court’s verdict will be challenged in the High Court.
Riots broke out in the Naroda Gam area of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, during a bandh called to protest the torching of the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express by a mob near Godhra station a day earlier. As many as 58 train passengers, mostly karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, were charred to death.
The accused were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons), 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), and 153 (provocation for riots), among others
The then-BJP president Amit Shah, now Union Home Minister, had in September 2017 appeared in the trial court as a defence witness for Kodnani. She had requested the court to summon Shah to prove her alibi that she was present in the Gujarat Assembly and later at Ahmedabad’s Sola Civil Hospital, and not at Naroda Gam, where the massacre took place.
Six different judges have presided over the case since the trial started in 2010. (With PTI inputs )