The designated judge hearing the Naroda Gaam rioting case of 2002 today reserved order on an application seeking her recusal from the case. Jyotsna Yagnik, who had earlier conducted trial in the Naroda Patiya massacre case and now also assigned the Naroda Gaam rioting case, on Monday decided to pronounce her order in the matter on January 11.
Former state minister Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and Kishan Korani, who are accused in this case along with 79 others, sought the judge to recuse herself from the case as she had held them guilty in the Naroda Patiya case.
In an application, they apprehended that they would not get fair trial if the same judge were to conduct hearing against them. In a judgement delivered in the Naroda Patiya case in August, Justice Yagnik held Kodnani, Bajrangi and Korani as guilty and sentenced them and 28 others to life imprisonment.
On November 30, 2011 the Chief Justice of Gujarat high court had issued a notification appointing her as a designated judge for Naroda Gaam case.
"We have apprehensions that if the same judge would preside over this case, it will deprive us of fair and impartial trial. There are elements of pre-conceived notion, pre-determination and pre-disposition in this scenario," argued advocate Nirupam Nanavati who appeared for all the three accused.
"We fear that there are chances of subject-bias and bias of judicial obstinacy. Therefore in the fitness of the case, your honour should recuse herself form the case," he added.
During the post-Godhra riots, 11 people of the minority community were killed in Naroda Gaam area of the city. The Supreme Court had in 2008 appointed Special Investigation Team and later assigned the trial against the 82 accused to a special court.
"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 upon which judicial opinion was formed and we were held guilty," Nanavati submitted before the court.
"And on the basis of similar sets of witnesses and evidences, if we would also be held guilty in this case, it will be the travesty of justice," he added. Opposing the request, special public prosecutor Suresh Shah contended that there was no provision in Criminal
Procedure Code to request a judge to recuse him/herself from a case by any party.
"Following the SC orders, Chief Justice of the high court has appointed a judicial officer and this court has no role to change that decision," he stated.