The High Court has also started hearing the appeal petitions on daily basis since last Monday, December 19The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday allowed six victims of the 2002 Naroda Patia massacre to get case papers running into over 1.25 lakh pages free of cost from the registry of the court. Survivors backed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP),a Mumbai-based civil rights and legal aid group had filed this application in early December 2016. The application may be read here.
Survivors had filed a petition earlier this month to get the case papers free of cost after the registry demanded Rs 1.18 lakh printing cost from them. The victims Fatimabibi Sheikh, Farzanabanu Pathan, Dilawar Saiyed, Jannatbibi Sheikh, Ishrat Jahan Saiyed and Ruksana Qureshi moved the application through advocate on record, K N Shashtri, seeking copies of the case papers without any charges.
During the hearing, a division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia asked the special investigation team (SIT) lawyer if the victims, who have also filed appeal petitions against 11 persons who were acquitted, can be given the papers free of cost.
SIT lawyer R C Kodekar told the bench that it is the discretion of the court to grant such requests, however, there is no such rule under the Code of Criminal Procedure and other relevant high court rules. Following the brief argument, the bench allowed the petition moved by the victims and ordered the registry to provide a copy of entire case papers without any charges. The case papers include the appeal petitions and judgment of the special designated court.
The High Court has also started hearing the appeal petitions on daily basis since Monday. The division bench is hearing the appeal petitions against conviction moved by 31 convicts, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi. They are facing life sentence for their alleged roles in the Naroda Patiya massacre in which 97 Muslims were killed on February 28, 2002, when large scale riots had broken out in the state following the Sabarmati Express train burning incident.
During the hearing of the Sardarpura appeals, Survivors were greatly handicapped not having a copy of the case papers.
This appeal has run into a series of controversies.Criticising this practice which appeared to have been adopted in the controversial and sensitive Naroda Patia massacre case of the 2002 riots, to possibly deliberately engage an advocate who is a distant relative of Justice Akil Kureshi, the division bench of Kureshi and Justice Biren Vaishnav observed that instead of requesting the judge not to hear the case, the senior counsel should have refrained from appearing in the case as the judge does not hear the cases of that lawyer. This had happened on Friday, November 18. Before that,last year, two Judges of the Gujarat HC in open court had said that one of the accused had approached and even threatened the judges.
Meanwhile, both Maya Kodnani and Babu bajrangi,the high profile accusedhave got permamnent and temporary bail since their conviction on August 29,2012. At the last hearing of the appeal,Babu Bajrangi had pleaded for permamnent bail claiming that he was nearly one hundredper cent blind. He has been supported by a report of the jail doctor and medical team