Gujarat riots: India court overturns Maya Kodnani conviction

An Indian court has overturned the conviction of a senior BJP party member who was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her part in the murder of 97 people in the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.

Maya Kodnani, a former state minister, was the most senior figure convicted.

She was among 32 convicts who had appealed to the Gujarat high court against their 2012 sentences.

Thirty others received life sentences for their part in the riots in Naroda Patiya, a suburb of Ahmedabad.

The high court however upheld the sentence of Babu Bajrangi, a former leader of the right-wing Hindu group Bajrang Dal, who was condemned to remain in jail until he dies.

BBC Gujarati’s Roxy Gadekar said the court had acquitted Ms Kodnani on benefit of doubt, as there were no police witnesses who confirmed the charge that she had provoked a Hindu mob.

They also said that she had been named as an accused much later – only after a special investigation team had taken over the probe into the riots.

The riots left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead, and were among India’s worst outbreaks of unrest.

The rioting began after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire blamed on Muslims in the town of Godhra.

Ms Kodnani was not a minister at the time of the riots, but was appointed junior minister for women and child development by Narendra Modi who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time. She was a close aide to Mr Modi.

She quit her post when she was arrested in 2009 in connection with the massacre but remained a member of the state assembly.

Correspondents said her conviction was an embarrassment for Mr Modi who elevated her to ministerial office in 2007 despite being aware that her role in the riots was being investigated.