The Gujarat high court on Monday reserved its order on an application by former state minister Maya Kodnani, challenging the order of the lower court judge who refused to recuse herself from the Naroda Gaam rioting case of 2002.
Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and Kishan Korani, who are accused in the case along with 79 others, challenged the order of designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik, who had rejected their similar applications requesting her to recuse or excuse herself from hearing the case.
In their applications, the three accused expressed apprehensions that they would be deprived of a fair and impartial trial if the same judge, who had pronounced them guilty in the Naroda Patiya case, would also conduct the trial of the Naroda Gaam case.
After hearing all the parties today, Justice K M Thakar reserved his order on these petitions. Last August, Justice Yagnik, while pronouncing her judgment in the Naroda Patiya case, held Kodnani, Bajrangi and Korani guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment, besides 28 other accused.
On November 30, 2011 the chief justice of Gujarat high court issued a notification appointing her as designated judge for the Naroda Gaam case.
During the widespread post-Godhra riots, 11 people from the minority community were allegedly killed in Naroda Gaam area of the city.
In 2008, the Supreme Court had appointed a Special Investigation Team and later assigned the trial against total 82 accused in this case to a special court.
"We have reasonable apprehensions that if the same judge presides over this case, it will deprive us of a fair and impartial trial, due to pre-conceived notions, pre-determination and pre-disposition," advocate Nirupam Nanavati who appeared for all three accused had argued.
"Though technically both the cases of Patiya and Gaam area have different first information reports and different trials, both have certain common witnesses and
evidences due to which judicial opinion was formed and we were held guilty," Nanavati had submitted before the court.
Opposing this, special prosecutor J M Panchal demanded the outright rejection of these petitions contending that there was no such provision in the Criminal Procedure Code which gives the right to any accused to demand removal of the presiding officer of the same case.
He also argued that, "Even though there are a few evidences and witnesses common to both Naroda Gaam and Naroda Patiya cases, there is no reason to believe that accused will get convicted in this case too."