The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to four convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya case. A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar granted bails on the ground that the conviction order of Gujarat High Court was ‘debatable’ and the accused should be released on bail since their appeal would take time. One of the convicts was granted temporary bail for his daughter’s wedding.
On 28th February 2002, following the Sabarmati Express carnage, widespread riots took place in Gujarat. About 97 Muslims were killed in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya area, making it one of the worst mob-violence during the riots. Gujarat High Court had last year convicted Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi but acquitted former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani for want of evidence.
The four convicts, Umeshbhai Bharwad, Rajkumar, Harshad and Prakashbhai Rathod, who are granted bail were held guilty under section 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house) of the Indian Penal Code along with other provisions related to unlawful assembly. The Supreme Court noted that the Gujarat High Court had primarily relied on police officials’ identification and in some cases, no identification parade was conducted. This raised doubts over identification in a group of around 15,000 people. The Bench noted that prima facie the High Court’s approach was debatable.