Ahmedabad: Babu Bajrangi, a man sentenced to imprisonment till death in a 2002 Gujarat riots case, has been granted bail for the sixth time by the Gujarat High Court on medical grounds, this time for 10 days.
Bajrangi’s appeal and that of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and 30 other people against their conviction in the Naroda Patiya massacre case by a trial court in 2012, will finally be heard by a High Court bench from Tuesday next.
Last week, two High Court judges, Justice MR Shah and Justice KS Jhaveri, recused themselves from the case. Lawyers representing riot victims allege the judges told them that some of those accused had attempted to approach them.
Jyotsna Yagnik, the sessions judge who had convicted Bajrangi, Ms Kodnani and the others in 2012, had alleged last year that she was being intimidated. She alleged she had even received death threats after her security was downgraded from Z-plus to Y.
Activists say they fear interference with the judicial process. “When judges start recusing on this basis, I would say it is not just worrying for the state, but the entire country and for victims seeking justice,” said activist Father Cedric Prakash.
On Thursday, Gujarat’s home department cleared the upgrade of security to Jyotsana Yagnik back to Z-category.
Shamshad Pathan, an advocate, alleged, “The victims have all along felt that there have been attempts to derail the investigation process.”
This case has seen the most high-profile conviction in the Gujarat riots so far – that of Maya Kodnani found guilty of murder for leading a mob that killed 97 people in Narodiya Patiya in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. She was a BJP legislator then. She later became a powerful minister in the cabinet of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Ms Kodnani resigned when she was arrested in 2009.
The 61-year-old has been granted permanent bail on account of poor health.
Babu Bajrangi has been out on bail for a total over 125 days since his conviction.