BJP President Amit Shah said on Monday in a special court that former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani was in the State Assembly and later in a government hospital, the day of riot murders in Ahmedabad in February 2002.
Shah appeared as a defense witness for Kodnani, who is accused of inciting a mob that killed 11 people in the Naroda Gam area of the city on February 28, 2002. He has already pleaded guilty and sentenced to life perpetuity in a separate case of riots in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad.
The riots broke out across Gujarat after a bogie of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire on suspicion of Muslim mob in Godhra in February 2002. The fire killed 59 Hindus, mostly Karsevaks or returning volunteers from Ayodhya, where the Hindu groups and rival Muslims are locked in a conflict of several decades in a religious site. The blaze triggered three days of retaliatory attacks throughout the state, leaving about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.
Shah told the court on 28 February to leave the assembly building in Gandhinagar for the Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, where the bodies of fire victims had been taken. He said that Kodnani was also present.
“Mayaben Kodnani was not Naroda Gam but the State Assembly at 8:30 am From 9:30 to 9:45 I was in the civil hospital and I met Maya Kodnani there,” Shah told the IANS news agency.
The BJP president said police escorted Kodnani and in a safe place after the rebel mobs surrounded the hospital. He said he did not know where Kodnani was going, the PTI news agency said.
Shah, however, said he did not know whether a firm in a Kodnani attendance record had submitted evidence in support of his, defense lawyers and prosecutors said.
But the lawyer on both sides interpreted Shah’s presentation differently.
“Amit Shah testified in favor of Kodnani,” said defense lawyer Chetan Shah.
However, prosecuting attorney Samshad Pathan challenged Kodnani’s presence at the meeting and later in the hospital not necessarily forced.
“Amit Shah told the court, Maya Kodnani was at the morning meeting and saw the hospital around 11:30. That shows that she was present at Naroda Gam, when the violence took place,” Pathan said.
The government of Narendra Modi in Gujarat. Last week, the court convened Shah as a witness at the request of Kodnani, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs and Child Welfare in the government of Narendra Modi of Gujarat. Kodnani had initially asked the court to summon Shah and 13 others in his defense in April this year to prove that he was not present at Naroda Gam on February 28 when riots broke out there.
According to his request, and Shah, he wanted to prove that MP Sarkhej followed the meeting and then to the Sola Civil Hospital when the riots broke out.
Kodnani has been released on bail for health reasons since 2014.
In 2009, the Supreme Court has set up six special courts to expedite trials in cases related to one of the worst religious unrest in the country.