The Gujarat government has refused permission to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team to file an appeal in a higher court seeking death penalty for former minister Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patiya riot case. This was decided on the basis of Advocate General Kamal Trivedi's opinion that there was "no direct evidence" against her.
Kodnani and Bajrang Dal activist Babu Bajrangi, along with 30 others, were convicted for life in the 2002 post-Godhra Naroda Patiya riot case, in which 96 people were killed.
"The state legal department, on the basis of the advocate general's opinion, has taken a decision not to file an appeal against the special court's order and not to seek death penalty for Maya Kodnani," Prashant Desai, who has been appointed special prosecutor for SIT in the Gujarat high court for the case, told PTI.
"The advocate general has opined that there is no direct evidence against Maya Kodnani and she was convicted only on the basis of other evidence and hence state government should think not to seek death penalty in her case," said Desai.
"However, the Gujarat government has given a go ahead to SIT to seek death penalty for Babu Bajrangi and four others accused who were sentenced for life by the designated court," he said.
Earlier, the state government had given the permission to SIT to seek death penalty for Kodnani, Bajrangi and eight others in connection with the case. But in May this year, apparently under pressure of right wing forces, the state government made a U-turn and withdrew its permission to seek death penalty and now, except for Kodnani, it has given its consent to SIT.
Joint Secretary, legal department, J J Pandya had sent a communication on August 30 to SIT member Ashish Bhatia with regard to the decision taken on Naroda Patiya case appeals and that was forwarded to Desai on September 7, 2013.
Now, the state legal department has given its permission to SIT to seek death penalty for five convicts, which include Bajrangi, Suresh Langado, Premchand Tiwari, Suresh Netlekar and Manu Maruda, who were sentenced to life.
Kodnani, who was earlier a minister in the Modi government, was sentenced to 28 years in prison by a special court in August 2012 in the Naroda Patiya riot case. Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to jail for his entire life, while eight others were given 31 years' jail term each in the same case.
Also, 22 other convicts were awarded 24 years' jail while 29 accused were acquitted in the case. As the state government, on the basis of opinion expressed by state Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, has given a go ahead to SIT for filing appeal against designated court's order, the SIT is expected to shortly file it before the high court, sources said.