New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah today appeared before a special SIT court here as a defence witness for former BJP Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani in the 2002 Naroda Gam riot case.
Shah told the Ahmedabad court that Kodnani was present at the Gujarat assembly during the Naroda Gam riot on February 28, 2002. They then met at the Sola Civil Hospital, the BJP chief said. “Maya Kodnani was not present in Naroda Gam, she was inside the state assembly at 8:30 am. From 9:30 am to 9:45 am I was at the Civil Hospital and I met Maya Kodnani there,” Indian Express quoted him as saying. He added that they were both escorted to their respective cars at the hospital.
Shah’s deposition lasted 40 minutes, the newspaper reported. His deposition was before Judge P.B. Desai, who had last Tuesday summoned him in response to an application filed by Kodnani. The court had allowed Kodnani’s plea to summon Shah and some others as witnesses in her defence in April this year.
On the day of the Naroda Gam riot near Ahmedabad, Kodani said she had visited the Sola Civil Hospital after attending the legislative assembly session and was not present at the spot where the violence took place.
Shah, then an MLA, was also present at Sola Civil Hospital, where bodies of the karsevaks killed in the Sabarmati train burning incident were brought from Godhra. Shah’s testimony will help prove her ‘alibi’ that she was present elsewhere when the crime took place, Kodani said. He was one in the list of 14 defence witnesses her lawyers provided, 12 of whom have already testified.
Kodnani, who was an MLA in 2002, was made a junior minister in then chief minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2007.
Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court had asked the SIT court to conclude the trial within four months. A bench headed by former Chief Justice J.S. Khehar asked the lower court to complete recording of evidence of defence witnesses in two months.
Naroda Gam is one of the nine major 2002 communal riot cases that were investigated by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. Eleven Muslims were killed in the Naroda Gam area on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train incident. Witnesses have alleged in court that Kodnani led the rioters who attacked Naroda Gam on the morning of February 28, 2002.
A total of 82 persons are facing trial in the case.
Kodnani has been convicted and sentenced to 28 years in jail in the Naroda Patiya riot case, which led to the death of close to 100 Muslims. She was sentenced in 2012 and granted bail in 2014, after she claimed she was very unwell.
(With PTI inputs)