The verdict in the Naroda Patia riot case, in which 97 persons of the minority community were killed, is likely to be pronounced on Wednesday by designated judge Jyotsana Yagnik. Key accused in the case include BJP MLA from Naroda, Maya Kodnani, former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and a few other local BJP leaders.
If the judgment is pronounced on Wednesday, it would be the sixth out of nine infamous 2002 communal riot cases, which had been assigned to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), led by ex-CBI director, RK Raghavan. Recently, a court in Mehsana had sentenced 21 accused to life imprisonment in Dipda Darwaja massacre case, in which 11 persons were killed in Visnagar town. There are 61 accused in the Naroda Patia case, which is primarily based on the testimony of eye witnesses, CDs provided by IPS officer Rahul Sharma, containing mobile call records which show location of the accused at the time of massacre, sting operation CD of journalist Ashish Khetan that exposed key accused including Bajrangi owning up the crimes, and other scientific evidences.
The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused. One of the accused, Vijay Shetty, died during the course of the trial. As many as 327 witnesses including eyewitnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials, forensic experts were examined by the court. The special public prosecutors in the case were Akhil Desai and Gaurang Vyas.
The Narota Patia massacre had taken place a day after Godhra train burning incident on February 27, 2002, wherein 59 Karsevaks were charred to death by an enraged mob at Godhra railway station.
On February 28, 2002, when a bandh call was given by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a large crowd gathered in Naroda Patia area and attacked people from minority community, killing 97 of them and injuring 33 others.
The Gujarat police had arrested 46 persons in connection to the massacre. The SIT, which was handed over the probe in 2008, arrested 24 more persons, taking the total number of persons arrested in the case to 70.
Six of the 70 accused died before charges could be framed or trial could begin, while two others, viz. Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak, jumped bail and are still absconding.