Gujarat high court on Tuesday granted three-month bail to former Narendra Modi government minister Maya Kodnani, a convict in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case, on medical grounds.
Kodnani, a gynaecologist, had led the mob that massacred 95 people (30 men, 32 women and 33 children) in Naroda Patiya, a lower middle-class Muslim locality in northern Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002.
This is the single largest case of mass murder during the Gujarat riots, which erupted following the Godhra train carnage in which 59 people, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were killed.
The post-Godhra religious riots claimed more than 1,000 lives in the state.
Kodnani was then the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Naroda and seen as a rising star in chief minister Narendra Modi’s regime.
She was appointed Gujarat's minister for women and child development in 2007, but had to resign after she was arrested in the Naroda Patiya massacre case in March 2009.
A division bench of justice KS Jhaveri and justice KJ Thaker was hearing Kodnani’s bail application seeking six months' relief.
Her advocate Hardik Dave submitted before the court that she was suffering from tuberculosis of intestine, besides heart disease and depression.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the riot cases, however, opposed the bail plea, saying the treatment could be made available to her in accordance with the jail manual.
The court asked Kodnani to furnish details to the SIT of her travels outside Gujarat for treatment.
A special SIT court had in August 2012 awarded Kodnani 28 years’ imprisonment, while naming her as "a kingpin of riots" in Naroda area.
The Modi government has tried to distance itself from Kodnani, saying she was not a minister during the riots.
In September, however, the Modi government refused permission to the SIT to seek capital punishment for Kodnani.
This was seen as a volte-face. In April, the state law department had asked the SIT to file an appeal in high court and seek death sentence for Kodnani and longer sentences for the other convicts including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi.
(With inputs from agencies)