New Delhi: The Supreme Court granted bail to the four convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riots case on Wednesday. The four convicts include- Umeshbhai Bharwad, Rajkumar, Harshad and Prakashbhai Rathod.
On Tuesday, an SC bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar granted bail to four of the convicts on the chief grounds that the High Court verdict of conviction was ‘debatable’ and that they should be released on bail since their appeal would take much time for disposal.
The apex court, however, expressed serious doubts over three of the convictions. The Supreme Court, while deciding the bail plea, also noted that the Gujarat HC had primarily relied upon identification of these convicts by police officials but in some cases, no identification parade was conducted and the appeals raised doubt over their identification in a group of around 15,000 persons.
“Prima facie, we find that the approach of the Gujarat High Court is debatable,” said the bench, while granting bail to Bharwad. It also noted that Bharwad was undergoing treatment for HIV and that he had been on bail during the trial of the case.
Taking up the bail plea by Rajkumar, the apex court noted that the HC convicted him without carrying out any identification parade during the investigation. The bench while granting bail to Rajkumar said, “Prima facie, we find this approach to be doubtful, especially when the witnesses relied upon by the prosecution are police officials and no identification parade of this applicant was conducted during the investigation by the Police.”
The court further noted that Harshad alias Mungda Jila was sentenced to 10 years in jail. “Accordingly, an applicant is ordered to be released on bail to the satisfaction of the trial court,” directed the bench. It also released another convict, Prakashbhai Sureshbhai Rathod, on interim bail between January 28 and February 15 to attend his daughter’s wedding.
The Gujarat High Court had last year convicted Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi but acquitted former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Maya Kodnani for want of evidence.
At least 97 Muslims were killed in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya area on February 28, 2002. The incident was one of the worst cases of mob violence during the Gujarat riots.