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The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging a special SIT court's order in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case the massacre of 97 people in which a former minister in the then Narendra Modi government was sentenced to 28 years in jail. A division bench of the court comprising Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya reserved the order after hearing the rival parties.
It also heard the petition filed by the Special Investigation Team which has challenged the acquittal of 29 accused in the case by the SIT court on August 30, 2012. Maya Kodnani, a senior BJP leader and former minister, was awarded 28 years imprisonment, while former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was ordered to spend his entire life behind bars. Kodnani's lawyer Hardik Dave said that the high court also reserved its order on her application seeking to summon BJP chief Amit Shah and seven others, including a former party MLA Amrish Patel, as additional witnesses. The bench had also visited the scene of the riots to understand the topography of the place where 97 people, mostly from the minority community, were slain in one of the worst massacres after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002 in which 59 kar sevaks were killed, plunging Gujarat into a spiral of violence that left over 1,000 people dead. Kodnani, currently out on bail, was handed down 28 years imprisonment--18 years life imprisonment after serving 10 years under section 326 of IPC (voluntary causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means)--with the court calling her the "kingpin" of the crime. Seven other accused were given enhanced life imprisonment of 21 years after first serving 10 years under IPC section 326. The remaining 23 accused were given simple life imprisonment of 14 years. The court had also acquitted 29 accused for want of evidence, which the SIT has challenged. In the past, a number of High Court judges including Justices Akil Kureshi, M R Shah, K S Jhaveri, G B Shah, Sonia Gokani and R H Shukla had recused themselves from the case. In April 2015, the Supreme Court had stayed the proceedings after the SIT complained that high court judge R R Tripathi was expeditiously hearing only the appeal of Kodnani.