In a U-turn of sorts, the legal department on the Gujarat government has written to the chief prosecutor in the Naroda Patiya case, asking that the enhanced punishment given to Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi be put on hold.
The government has said it wants the decision put on hold until it consults with its Attorney General.
Lawyer for the victims in the Naroda Patiya case Mukul Sinha said he was not surprised by the decision taken by the Gujarat government, terming it a political ploy.
"We have been saying it right from the start. No one among the victims had demanded death sentence.. we were surprised the government decided to press for death...," Sinha said.
"Now that there is mounting pressure from Hindutva forces, the government is backing out.. it confirms our apprehensions.. this was all political play.."
Sinha further said that the decision taken by the government shows that the SIT is helpless. "The manner in which decisions have been taken shows they (SIT) have no voice.. They have been denuded of their powers."
The rethink comes after Chief Minister Narendra Modi government came under criticism from right wing forces for its earlier decision to go ahead with the Supreme Court-appointed SIT's recommendation to seek death penalty for Kodnani, Bajrangi and others.
The state government had earlier given its consent to file an appeal in the High Court seeking death sentence for Kodnani, Bajrangi and others, who were awarded life term by a lower court.
"The decision has been withheld for now as we have to take opinion of state advocate general," Gujarat Finance Minister and spokesperson Nitish Patel told PTI.
"A final decision will be taken after advocate general give his opinion," Patel added.
Kodnani, who was earlier a minister in the Modi government, was sentenced to 28 years in prison by a Special Court in August 2012 in connection with the post-Godhra Naroda Patiya riot case - in which 96 people were killed.
Bajrang Dal activist Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to jail for his entire life, while eight others were given 31 years' jail term each in the same case.
Earlier this year, the Gujarat state legal department approved the recommendation of the SIT to file an appeal in the High Court seeking death sentences to 10 convicts including former minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrangi.
The Gujarat government asked that Maya Kodnani, a former minister in Narendra Modi government, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and eight others be given the death penalty.
In August last year, trial court Judge Jyostna Yagnik sentenced Kodnani to 28 years imprisonment, while Bajrangi was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison. Eight others were awarded 31-year imprisonment, while 22 convicts got 24 year prison terms.
As many as 97 people were brutally killed in Naroda Patiya locality of the city by a violent mob on 28 February, 2002, a day after the Godhra train carnage triggered communal riots in Gujarat.
With PTI inputs
Updated Date: May 14, 2013 14:02:55 IST