The Gujarat high court has admitted the enhancement appeal filed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (through state government) in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case and also condoned the delay in filing the enhancement appeal.
A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Z K Saiyed on Monday admitted the appeal against sixteen accused, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and also condoned the delay in filing the appeal.
An application for condonation of delay, filed by the SIT last month, had cited administrative problems as the grounds for delay in filing the appeal, which was accepted by the court on Monday.
The SIT had sought enhancement of the sentences of 16 people, including Bajrangi, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. The lower court had convicted former minister in the Narendra Modi government Maya Kodnani, Bajrangi and 15 others in August 2012. As many as 96 people, mostly belonging to the minority community, were killed in the Naroda-Patiya massacre during the post-Godhra riots of 2002.
The court has convicted 32 and acquitted 29 persons. Kodnani is currently out on a temporary bail of three months on medical grounds. In November 2013, the SIT had filed three appeals seeking that Bajrangi and five other convicts should undergo life sentence without being considered for remission (reduction in term).
In the other two appeals, the SIT has demanded 25-year and 30-year sentences without remission for the remaining convicts. The accused were given jail terms of 21 years by the trial court.
The SIT has not sought for enhancement of Maya Kodnani's sentence in its appeal. There was a flip-flop from government earlier regarding enhancement of sentence to Kodnani.
The government had earlier given permission to seek death penalty for Kodnani, but later backtracked after the right-wing organisation opposed the move.