A court on Thursday acquitted all 67 accused in the post-Godhra riots in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Gam, including former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, more than two decades after 11 minority community members were killed.
While a lawyer for the victims’ families said the judgment would be challenged before Gujarat High Court because “justice was denied”, the accused and their relatives termed the verdict, which came more than 21 years after the incident, a “victory of truth”.
The court of S.K. Baxi, special judge for special investigation team (SIT) cases, acquitted all the 67 accused in one of the worst massacres witnessed during the riots triggered by the Sabarmati train carnage on February 27, 2002, after a trial spanning 13 years.
The 67 accused were already out on bail. Outside the court compound, relatives of the accused hugged each other and cried profusely after learning of the verdict. Some of the accused, after coming out of the court premises, shouted “Jai Shri Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki jai”.
Kodnani said: “The truth has truly won today.” Advocate Shahshad Pathan, who represented the victims’ families, said: “We will study the grounds on which the special court decided to acquit all the accused and challenge the order in the high court. It appears the victims have been denied justice. The question remains as to who burnt 11 persons to death in the presence of policemen?” Pathan told reporters.
The accused had been booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons), 120B (criminal conspiracy), and 153 (provocation for riots), among others. Then BJP president Amit Shah, now Union home minister, had in September 2017 appeared in the trial court as a defence witness for Kodnani.