Judge Jyotsna Yagnik’s Legal Acrobatics In The Maya Kodnani Case Of 2002

An Indian police officer escorts Kodnani after she surrendered to a special investigation team in Gandhinagar on 27 March 2009.

In the first part of this analysis of the 2002 case against Maya Kodnani, I had questioned the one-sided approach of Judge Jyotsna Yagnik in handling her case, which ended in conviction and a 28-year jail sentence. In this part, I am providing a few salient instances of how Yagnik, during the course of the trial, drew adverse inferences against Kodnani that did not convince one of her neutrality.

One such case is that of Siddiqbhai Allabax Mansuri (Prosecution Witness-236), who testified before the court that Kodnani came in a Maruti car. This witness says that Kodnani arrived at the scene of the crime at 8.30 am or 9 am. As per his testimony, the mob started reciting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ after seeing Kodnani. He further says that he saw Kodnani speaking to the mob, and instructed her PA to take out weapons from the jeep and distribute them among the mob (Pages 644-45).

Yagnik herself acknowledges that in the statement of the SIT (the Special Investigation Team) appointed by the Supreme Court to reinvestigate the 2002 crimes, there was no mention of slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ being chanted. But the same has been stated by the witness in his deposition before the court. In order to legitimise this testimony, which was critical for implicating Kodnani, Yagnik justified this contradiction in the testimony of the witness, claiming that the witness might not have mentioned this to the SIT, but that the slogans were likely to have been shouted since that was “the mental state or spirit of the day” (Para 7.13, Page 648).

At one point, she mentions that mere oral evidence of the witness cannot be treated as completely dependable evidence. Since the physical attributes and identity markers, etc, were not mentioned by witnesses in the statements given to the SIT, she gives the benefit of doubt to five accused persons. However, Kodnani’s PA was not even named in the statements of the same witnesses given to the SIT. But he is not given the benefit of the doubt on that ground. The reasoning given by Judge Yagnik is that he was described as PA to Kodnani. To quote her: “This description is a satisfying way to involve A-62 in the crime in the statement of the SIT.”

However, the witness is not even questioned as to how he knew that the person allegedly accompanying Kodnani on that fateful morning was her PA. The judge seemed to believe that anyone associated with her could be guilty by association. The formulation seemed to be simple: “When in doubt, hold it against Kodnani.”

In several instances in the judgment, Judge Yagnik has ensured that Kodnani did not get the benefit of any ambiguity or contradiction in the statements of witnesses. A case in point is the testimony of Abdul Majid Mohammad Usman Shaikh. Regarding his testimony as a whole, Yagnik takes a cautious approach in believing his statements and rejects most of his depositions with these remarks: “There is nothing to doubt the incidents but still as far as this witness is concerned, it is safe to believe the incidents only if the incidents get support from some another PW (prosecution witness)”. Yet, she seemed to accept all the allegations this witness made against Kodnani (Page 672).

The judge’s willingness to prima facie accept Kodnani’s guilt is evident in many pages of the judgment. For example, Zuberkhan Islamkhan Pathan claimed that he saw Kodnani in the mob outside Natraj Hotel. He further said that the men of that mob were told by Kodnani, “You go ahead, I am with you” (Page 674). But was he close enough to Kodnani so as to be able to hear her words to the mob when he does not claim that she spoke on a loudspeaker. It is hard to believe that a person belonging to the Muslim community would dare go right to the middle of a 15,000-strong volatile mob that had allegedly assembled with the specific purpose of killing Muslims.

The witness could easily have been tutored on two grounds: first, about the presence of Kodnani at the scene of the crime; second, on a statement to the effect that she was provoking the mob. Although Judge Yagnik frequently resorts to the “principle of probability’ and natural behaviour” whenever they are convenient to ‘establish’ the guilt of Kodnani, she fails to apply those very principles when dealing with the veracity of testimonies against Kodnani. All those statements that put a cloud of suspicion around the testimonies of witnesses against Kodnani are simply shoved under the carpet.

At several points during the trial, the witnesses provided enough evidence of being tutored to give doubtful testimonies to mislead the court and falsely implicate Kodnani. For instance, Judge Yagnik did question the veracity of the mobile phone call records of the various accused submitted by the prosecution. In this regard, the court noted the submission of the defence lawyer, Kikani: “…there are discrepancies and apparent contents which create reasonable doubts against the genuineness of the document. This creates a reasonable doubt about the genuineness of the document and this reasonable doubt is sufficient not to attach any value to the said documentary evidence…”.

Even after instances of possible fabrication were brought to the notice of the judge, she was not convinced that Kodnani was the target of malicious prosecution. Although she did not accept the prosecution’s version that the mobile records were not conclusive evidence of proving a conspiracy, Judge Yagnik made the following observation-“… it is notable that in the year 2002, the mobile phone was quite popular and was freely used as a mode of communication. A-37 (Maya Kodnani), A-18 (Babu Bajrangi), A-62 (Kirpalsing Jangbahadursing Chhabda, the PA of Mayaben Kodnani), A-44(Bipin Autowala) etc. have been alleged to be in contact on a mobile phone. None of them has stated that they did not have mobile in 2002 and they had no telephonic contact with the co-accused. This fact is a circumstance which can certainly be considered when the hatching of criminal conspiracy stands proved against the accused. Their agreement to do illegal acts cannot be without any communication hence, it is inferred that they have communicated with one another since they belong to the same group, a same organisation working for ‘Hindutva’.” (Page 799) It is bizarre that the mere possession of mobile phones by all the accused is seen as firm proof of their conspiracy and guilt.

When doubts over Kodnani’s guilt remain strong, Judge Yagnik stretched the principle of probability in order to draw adverse inferences against Kodnani. It is not uncommon for judges to question the findings of the police because they are known to often act in a partisan manner. But judicial discipline requires that the judge does not do so in a selective manner. For example, when Judge Yagnik does not have real evidence of Kodnani having interfered with the police investigation, she lets her imagination fill in the blanks. To quote her, “This court is not sitting in an ivory tower and is conscious to the hard realities of the system. In the system, normally if the police officer knows the desire of the political leader the police would not leave a single stone unturned to give all colours to such desire.” (Page 530)

The judge, as we saw in part one of this story, ignored concrete material evidence in the form of video recordings which show Kodnani’s presence far away from the site of the massacre at the relevant times.

Moreover, Judge Yagnik did not find the need to prove or seek evidence that Kodnani had a “desire” to set her own neighbourhood on fire and see her own clients/patients murdered in cold blood.

There is an unstated assumption that one can know the mind and heart of Kodnani simply because as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA she couldn’t be anything but a monster. Had Yagnik not been driven by own predilections, as a citizen of Ahmedabad she would have known that after Godhra train fire killed 60 karsevaks, people of her state forgot their political affiliations. Congressmen joined the murderous mobs with as much fury as did BJP workers, as did apolitical citizens. The mob fury unleashed during that period cut across party lines.

There is also no consideration of the fact that on that fateful day, the first one to get killed was a Hindu who was mowed down by a Muslim lorry driver. That is one reason why a mob got enraged in the first place.

On-Page 725 of the judgment, Judge Yagnik presents a very strange tale of causation. She notes that “The police officer has very specifically stated that the active leaders were instigating the mobs.” She further states that the MLA of any area is bound to be an active leader. [Even this is not always true. Plenty of MLAs neglect their constituencies and some even act responsibly]. In the very next line, she says, “Now, if she cannot be termed to be an active leader of the BJP and that too in Naroda constituency, then who else can be called the leader of BJP in that area? It can, therefore, be inferred that A-37 was present at the site.”

Even if she was present at the site, she could well have come to pacify the mob. But such questions and probabilities are irrelevant to Yagnik for the simple reason that Kodnani belongs to the BJP. (Yagnik comes from a Congress family. That by itself is no disqualification, but judicial responsibility needs you to set aside your inclinations.) So, she jumps to the next firm conclusion: “Therefore, it can be safely inferred that A-37 (Maya Kodnani) was instigating the mob that too in the morning hours at the site of the offence but, the police has made conscious efforts to screen her presence.”

Search elected leader to be actively involved in the lives of the people of her constituency does not offer conclusive proof that she would want mayhem and murderous mobs to run amok there. By this logic, every MLA, whether of BJP or Congress, should have been ipso facto declared guilty of instigating every incident of violence that took place in their respective constituencies. Why even bother to conduct a trial when the judge is so sure about what an MLA would have done in such circumstances?

Judge Yagnik repeatedly reiterates that Kodnani was a public figure known to everyone in the area and hence the witness’ identification cannot be disputed. But the same inference and logic can be extended to question as to why a public figure would come out openly before an inflamed mob and openly distribute weapons at such an explosive time? If she were indeed inclined to encourage mayhem, would it not have been safer and saner for her to supply weapons from the safety of her own home in the vicinity of the killing fields?

The determination of criminal liability requires a precise evaluation of testimonies and careful analysis of each piece of evidence. To conclude the guilt of an accused, there must be concrete evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But one can hardly accuse Judge Yagnik of sticking to this maxim.

To provide another instance among the many available in the 1,969-page judgement, on the one hand, Yagnik herself states that the mob was already in such a mood that if Kodnani had attempted to pacify them, she would have been attacked. Yet, she declares Kodnani to be the ‘kingpin of the riots’ and describes her role to be ‘provoking, instigating and boosting up the mob’. Even after accepting the fact that the mob was already enraged (Page 703), Judge Yagnik concludes that it was Kodnani who instigated the rioters. On page 1,813, Yagnik further contradicts herself by saying that the “mob did not have the courage” to start the riots until Kodnani arrived there even after having stated earlier that the mob was already enraged.

Another clear case of contradiction appears when Yagnik states: “…A-37 (Kodnani) being an MLA of the area, it does not sound to be probable that A-37 moved publicly possessing firearm, that too on such a day where media, cameraman, channels, etc, are bound to be present there…”. But this did not stop the judge from accepting the testimonies which suggested that the violence started only after Kodnani arrived at the crime scene and instigated the mobs.

Judge Yagnik’s predilections are again visible on page 703. She assumes that Kodnani had big political ‘ambitions’. Therefore, that must have been a sufficient motivating factor playing the role of a kingpin in the riots. She says: “…A-37 was the then-current MLA, hence it can be inferred that she must have the ambition to go ahead in politics and she cannot leave the temptation of taking political mileage by being a kingpin in the series of events that took place on that day…”.

Due to this presumption against Kodnani, Judge Yagnik violated a cardinal principle of criminal jurisprudence which states that if there are two views possible while analysing circumstantial evidence, one pointing towards the guilt of the accused and the other to her innocence, the court should take the view which is favourable to the accused.

Several knowledgeable people have confirmed that many innocents were falsely implicated in the 2002 riots due to the mischief played by certain NGOs while the actual culprits, especially those related to the Congress party, have been allowed to go scot-free. Teesta Setalvad’s right-hand man, Rais Khan, who fell out with her, has said so in a recorded video interview with me as well as in his testimony before the court. This is a matter that deserves serious investigation.

89 thoughts on “Judge Jyotsna Yagnik’s Legal Acrobatics In The Maya Kodnani Case Of 2002”

  1. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  2. I am curious to find out what blog system you have been working with? I’m experiencing some minor security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more safe. Do you have any solutions?

  3. I’m not sure why but this web site is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  4. I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or blog posts in this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i’m glad to express that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I so much for sure will make certain to don?t fail to remember this web site and give it a look on a constant basis.

  5. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, amazing site!

  6. Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

  7. Howdy excellent blog! Does running a blog similar to this take a lot of work? I have virtually no knowledge of computer programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, if you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I just had to ask. Thanks a lot!

  8. Whats up this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  9. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  10. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it!

  11. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  12. Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  13. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. Nevertheless just imagine if you added some great graphics or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this site could undeniably be one of the greatest in its niche. Fantastic blog!

  14. Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was wanting to know your situation; many of us have created some nice procedures and we are looking to swap strategies with other folks, be sure to shoot me an e-mail if interested.

  15. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  16. I’m now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic. I needs to spend a while learning more or understanding more. Thank you for wonderful information I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

  17. Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, good site!

  18. What i do not realize is actually how you’re now not really a lot more smartly-appreciated than you may be right now. You are so intelligent. You know therefore significantly in terms of this matter, produced me in my opinion believe it from so many numerous angles. Its like men and women aren’t interested unless it’s something to accomplish with Woman gaga! Your personal stuffs excellent. Always maintain it up!

  19. You’re so awesome! I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before. So good to find someone with a few original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This website is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

  20. Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, excellent site!

  21. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  22. Hmm it appears like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips and hints for rookie blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  23. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  24. My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on several websites for about a year and am anxious about switching to another platform. I have heard excellent things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

  25. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for beginner blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  26. Hi would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a difficult time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  27. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your website.

  28. When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Thank you!

  29. It is perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this publish and if I may I want to recommend you few interesting things or advice. Perhaps you could write next articles relating to this article. I wish to read more things approximately it!

  30. You’re so cool! I don’t suppose I have read something like this before. So good to find someone with a few original thoughts on this issue. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  31. I am really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Select your currency
INR Indian rupee
Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top