Under attack from various Sangh organisations, the Gujarat government has asked the special prosecutor probing Naroda Patiya massacre to put on hold for now its earlier directions seeking death sentence for BJP leader Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal’s Babu Bajrangi.
The Modi government sprang up a surprise last month when its law department asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file an appeal in the high court and seek death sentence for the high-profile BJP leader and longer sentences for the other convicts.
"The state law department has asked the SIT chief prosecutor not to proceed ahead with seeking enhanced sentences for convicts in the massacre. I believe there was lot of pressure on the government from various quarters," a lawyer privy to investigations said.
The politically-significant decision was seen as Modi’s move to put his alleged communal face on the backburner and distance his government away from the allegations that it had a role in 2002 communal riots.
A special court last year sentenced Kodnani to 28 years in jail for inciting a mob leading to the massacre 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya during post-Godhra Gujarat riots.
A sitting MLA from Naroda Patiya, Kodnani is considered to be close to chief minister Narendra Modi and was the first woman and first MLA to be convicted and sentenced in a post-Godhra riots case.
She was the minister of women and child development in the Narendra Modi government but was forced to resign after a case was lodged against her in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002.
The trial court had convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, which took place on February 28, 2002, after hearing testimonies of as many as 327 witnesses comprising eye witnesses, victims, doctors, police personnel, government officials and forensic experts.
Her sentencing had come a day after Zakia Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed by marauding mobs during the infamous 2002 riots, filed a protest petition against the SIT that had given a clean chit to Modi.