Ahmedabad: The judgement in the Naroda Patiya massacre case that took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots has been deferred to August 29. Three of the 62 accused in the case were not present in the court following which the Ahmedabad court of Additional Principal Judge Jyotsna Yagnik issued non-bailable warrants against them. The three accused are Rajesh Kantilal Chhara, Suresh alias Sehzad Chhara and Ramesh Keshavlal Chhara.
During the riots 97 Muslims were slaughtered in Naroda Patiya by a mob led among others by a former minister in the Narendra Modi government. Judge Yagnik had completed the hearing in May, 2012 and reserved the judgement for Saturday.
The 62 accused include former minister in Narendra Modi government and Naroda MLA Maya Kodnani, former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Babu Bajrangi, local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Bipin Panchal, Kishan Korani, Ashok Sindhi and Raju Chaumal.
The massacre took place on February 28, 2002, a day after Sabarmati Express train burning incident at Godhra, during a bandh called by the VHP. A mob carrying lethal weapons and allegedly led by Kodnani and others gathered at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad and killed 97 persons while 33 others were wounded in one of the most brutal post-Godhra riots.
The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 accused. However, one of them, Vijay Shetty, died during the trial.
A total of 327 people including, eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police and government officials, forensic experts and journalists like Ashish Khetan who conducted a TV sting operation on the accused were examined by the court.
Initially, after the incident, 46 persons were arrested by the Gujarat Police. After the probe was handed over to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2008, the agency arrested 24 more persons.
However, before the charges could be framed or trial could start, six persons died, while two others, Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak, jumped bail and are still absconding.
The case was investigated by eight investigating officers over the past decade, the latest being Himanshu Shukla of the SIT.
All accused have been charged under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 323, 324, 325 (causing grievous hurt with deadly weapons), 367 (kidnapping in order to cause grievous hurt) of IPC.
The case is one of nine probed by the SIT including the Godhra train burning case.
Other SIT cases in which judgements have been delivered include the Ode village massacre of 23 people in Anand in which 18 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and five others to 7 years in prison.
In 2011, a special court had awarded death sentence to 11 and life imprisonment to 20 in the Godhra train burning case where 59 persons, mostly karsevaks, were burnt alive in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra.
In another judgement 31 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment by another designated court of Mehsana district in Sardarpura riot case where 33 people were killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)