A special court in Ahmadabad, which held 32 people including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani guilty of murder in one of the worst post-Godhra riots case, will set the punishment verdict for the convicts on Friday, based on the enormity of their crimes.
Naroda Patiya massacre was one of the worst cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots. On Feb 28, 2002, more than 95 people belonging to the minority community were killed by the rioting mob.
The special bench, comprising of Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik, acquitted 29 in the case giving the benefit of doubt while convicting 32 of the accused.
Kodnani of BJP and Babu Bajrangi of Bajrang Dal were the two high-profile leaders to be convicted among others. The bench found them both guilty of murder under Indian Penal Code Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder), which purportedly have the potential to get the highest capital punishment.
The counsels of the victims have reportedly urged the court to award the maximum punishment for the convicts. Special Public Prosecutor Akhil Desai contended that this case fell under the 'rarest of rare' category and hence the court should give the highest punishment permitted by the constitution to the convicts.
In another request to the court regarding the sentencing of the convicts, Desai is said to have sought for at least 20 years of imprisonment for all the convicts.
Kodnani is the first BJP minister to be convicted in the Gujarat riots case, thus becoming a major political setback for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been trying to wipe out the 2002 Gujarat Muslim killing stains off his hands.
The court ruling on the Naroda Patiya is expected to take a toll on Modi's aspiration for the Prime Minister post. Modi is touted to be the BJP's frontrunner for the top post in 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Critics alleged that Kodnani's conviction has just proven Modi and his party workers' complicity of 2002 Gujarat riots.
Candid Congress party general secretary Digvijaya Singh alleged that the Gujarat riots took place at the behest of Modi.
"Can any minister do this (involve in riots) without the support of the Chief Minister?" asked Singh while talking to reporters.
Naroda Patiya massacre is one among the Supreme Court-appointed committee Special Investigation Team's cases to receive its judgment. The Gujarat police had initially taken 47 people in to custody in connection with Naroda Patiya case. Another 24 people were arrested, including Kodnani after the case was transferred to the special team.
Kodnani was arrested in 2009, following a charge-sheet in her name and was forced her to resign the minister post in the Modi government.
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