Mr Shah during his over 20-minute-long presence in the court and cross examination supported Kodnani's claim that she was in the Gujarat Assembly and later at Sola Civil Hospital on the day of the incident ie February 28. In his witness, he said Kodnani, who was also an MLA of the party like him at the time of the incident was present in the Assembly which was in session that day when a Condolence Motion for the victims of the Godhra train burning incident of a day before was moved.
Replying to a query, Shah said, 'I saw Mayaben entering the hospital while I was going out. Amid the built up anger, Mayaben and I were taken aside in a police jeep.' He however said he did not know about the whereabouts of Kodnani during the period between her presence in Assembly and hospital. He said he did not recognise the signature of Mayaben.
He also said he did not know driving and his vehicle was always driven by his driver. To some queries he said he was unable to recall the exact time of the event. He also said he had never deposed before the SIT in the matter as he was never asked to do so. Special SIT Judge PB Desai had issued the summon against Shah on September 12 asking him to appear as witness today.
Today Shah arrived in the court amid tight security. Mayaben and another convict of the case Babu Bajrangi were also present in the court. Shah was the last prominent witness in the case to appear before the court. Earlier in the case over 150 witnesses had recorded statements. The case had seen over half a dozen supplementary charge-sheet. Before the start of cross examination, Judge Desai in the presence of SIT counsel VK Malhotra, Government advocate Suresh Shah and Kodnani's advocate Amit Patel, asked Shah to reply the queries with full responsibility as his statement would be recorded. Kodnani, who had to resign as minister, was among 30 convicts, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Patel alias Babu Bajrangi in the case in which the SIT court had pronounced its judgement in 2012.
She, however got bail on health ground and delay in hearing of the appeal in July 2014. There were over 80 accused in the case of which 11 had died during the trial and remaining were acquitted. The SIT had alleged that Kodnani had led the crowd that killed people in Naroda Gam on February 28 while in her defense,she had maintained that she was not present at the scene as alleged. She claimed that at the time of the incident she was in the Sola civil hospital here where the bodies of the karsevaks killed in train burning incident in Godhara was brought. Earlier, she was in the Gujarat Assembly. She had claimed that Shah, the then MLA of of her party BJP, was present at both the places and his statement was of utmost importance to prove her alibi and innocence.
Earlier on two occasions summons to Shah could not be issued as Kodnani failed to provide his exact address. Naroda Gam case was part of the larger Naroda Patiya massacre in which altogether 97 people were killed. It was one of the nine major cases of Gujarat riots which was probed by Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. Earlier in an application to the lower court, the former minister, had sought that summons be issued to Mr Shah and 13 others as she wanted to prove that on February 28, 2002, the day the riots broke out in Naroda Gram and Naroda Patiya, she was present in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. She has submitted that after that she was present at Sola Civil Hospital, her home at Asarva, the civil hospital in Asarva and then her home. She had met with Shah in the Assembly as well as at the Sola Civil Hospital. (UNI)