HC Judge Hearing Rahul Gandhi's Appeal in Defamation Case Was Maya Kodnani's Lawyer

Two Gujarat judges who have heard the Congress leader's appeals in the case have turned out to have earlier represented top BJP leaders.

New Delhi: Justice Hemant M. Prachak, who is hearing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal in the Gujarat high court against the session court’s rejection of his application to stay his conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ remark defamation case, was one of the lawyers defending former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, an accused in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.

On April 13, The Wire had reported that Judge Robin Paul Mogera, who was hearing Gandhi’s appeal in the Surat sessions court against his two-year conviction in this defamation case, was Union home minister and BJP leader Amit Shah’s lawyer in the 2006 Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. The report had underlined that Mogera, as a lawyer, represented Shah at least until 2014 when the case was being heard at a Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai.

Hearing the case on April 20, Judge Mogera rejected Gandhi’s appeal against the two-year conviction in the case filed by a Gujarat BJP leader in 2019. The appeal had political implications with direct links to the BJP since the verdict of the sessions court could have helped the opposition leader return to parliament. 

On its heels comes a similar report by The Federal today about Justice Hemant M. Prachak hearing Gandhi’s appeal against the Surat court’s verdict in the Gujarat high court. The news report underlined that Justice Prachak “defended Kodnani in criminal case number 1708/12 against the Special SIT court in one of the cases following riots in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam areas of Ahmedabad in February 2002 where more than a hundred Muslims, including women and children, were killed.” It further pointed out, “Noticeably, all the accused of the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam cases were acquitted a week back by the Special Court in Gujarat.” 

According to an April 21 report by The Federal, the acquittal could pave way for Kodnani, a powerful minister in the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, to return to active politics. 

Gandhi, seeking relief from the Surat court’s verdict, had approached the Gujarat high court. Though Justice Geeta Gopi was to hear the case on April 27, she recused herself. Since Gandhi’s lawyer Pankaj Champaneri appealed that the criminal revision application be heard on an urgent basis, Justice Gopi allowed it but recused herself from hearing it saying, “Not before me.” Justice Prachak then stepped in.

As per Federal, Prachak began practice as a lawyer in the Gujarat HC and thereafter went on to work as assistant pleader of the Gujarat government under Modi. In 2015, after Modi became the prime minister, he was appointed the Union government’s standing counsel for the High Court of Gujarat which went on till 2019. 

In 2021, he was appointed a judge of the Gujarat HC.