The Special Trial Court for the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre rejected an application by former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and two others where they had sought recusal of the trial judge, Jyotsana Yagnik. Yagnik is the judge who convicted the three in another 2002 riots case, Naroda Patiya, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The other two convicts who moved the application have been identified as Babu Patel alias Bajrangi and Kishan Korani. After their convictions in Naroda Patiya massacre case, the three are facing criminal trial in Naroda Gam case also.
Special prosecutor in the case Gaurang Vyas said, “The court has rejected the application while observing that the court has power to recuse itself from a particular case on its own. And further, there is no provision in criminal law that a judge who has conducted trial of a particular case cannot hold trial of another case.”
Vyas said the court has also observed that the court has no power to say “not before me” to the case when it has been assigned the same by the Gujarat High Court and also there is no allegation of prejudice against it by the accused. The court has also refused to recuse itself from the case as no accused is its relative.
Earlier, Naroda Gam case’s trial was being conducted in the special court of sessions judge, S H Vora. However, sometime back, Vora was elevated as the HC judge following which, Yagnik has been assigned the job of conducting trial of the Naroda Gam case by Chief Justice of the HC.
The three accused had sought Yagnik’s recusal from the case apprehending that since she convicted them in Naroda Patiya case she would be having predetermined mind on certain evidence which was identical in both the cases, Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam.
The accused’s lawyer had argued that they have reasonable apprehensions that if the same judge would preside over the case, it would deprive the accused of their fundamental right of having fair and impartial trial as elements of pre-conceived notion, pre-determination and pre-disposition would be there.
Eleven persons were killed in the Naroda Gam massacre and around 82 accused are undergoing trial in the case.