Former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani, sentenced to 28 years' imprisonment in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, was today granted bail by the Gujarat High Court, mainly in consideration of her health.
"Applicant is hereby ordered to be released on bail on executing bond of Rs one lakh and subject to the condition that she shall surrender her passport before the trial court," the division bench of Justices V M Sahai and R P Dholaria said in its order.
Kodnani, once a minister in the erstwhile Chief Minister Narendra Modi's ministry, becomes the first convict to get bail in the Naroda Patiya case in which 97 people were killed. She was the first woman to be convicted among the accused of Gujarat riot cases.
The bench has also allowed Kodnani's prayer of suspension of the sentence until her appeal, pending before the High Court since December 2012, is heard.
Her bail application said she was suffering from tuberculosis and depression, for which she was getting treatment at the city civil hospital. The contention was supported by certificate from the hospital superintendent.
Special public prosecutor Prashant Desai, who represented the Special Investigation Team, opposed the bail plea.
"Looking at the crime where a large number of people died and were injured, the court should not be liberal in grant of bail application and should view the matter very strictly and looking at the seriousness of the offence... Bail plea is liable to be rejected," Desai said.
The High Court said it would not deal with merit of the evidence against her now. "We deem it proper not to enter into a great detail of the evaluation of the evidence on the record as it will be seen at the time of final hearing of the appeal," the order said.
Kodnani, MLA of Naroda at the time of 2002 riots, was made minister of state for women and child development in 2007. She had to resign after her arrest in the case in March 2009.
The SIT court in August 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for the riots at Naroda Patiya here.
The massacre had taken place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.