52-year-old Kodnani was charged with offences including murder, attempt to murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy in the Naroda Gam case. The two-judge bench of justice Harsha Devani and justice AS Supehiya had concluded the hearing in August 2017 and reserved the order.
In 2012, a special court for Special Investigation Team (SIT) cases had sentenced 32 people to life imprisonment, including Kodnani and Bajrangi. However, the HC today reduced his sentence to 21-year rigorous imprisonment without remission.
While convicts file appeals against their conviction, the SIT filed petitions seeking enhanced punishment for some, while victims' kin appealed against acquittal of the 29.More news: Britain's Queen Elizabeth backs her son Charles to take on Commonwealth role
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Yagnik said that Maya Kodnani has not been acquitted but she has been given "benefit of doubt". "We will go through the judgement and challenge it before the Supreme Court", advocate Pathan said. Along with Kodnani, Ganpat Chhara and Haresh Chhara, two other accused in the case have been acquitted as well. In 2012, special judge Jyotsna Yagnik had convicted 32 persons - including Kodnani and Bajrangi - and acquitted 29 others. It is noted that the top court also turned down a plea of the victims for compensation.
Government counsel Prashant Desai said: "It is clear from the Gujarat High Court's judgment that the court has gone on no witness theory".
Kodnani and Bajrangi now face trial in another 2002 carnage case - the Naroda Gam massacre in which 11 people were killed. "All 12 convicts have been awarded 21 years of imprisonment without remission". None of the police officials, who testified, said they had seen Kodnani at the spot and several witnesses turned hostile. According to the trial court that held Kodnani, said she was the mastermind of the violence in Naroda-Patiya area. Patel indicated that with her acquittal party would like to give her some active role if she would be willing to do so.