A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya, while acquitting Kodnani, said she should be given the benefit of doubt due to inconsistency in statements of witnesses.
In August 2012, the SIT court named Kodnani as "a kingpin of riots" in Naroda area and sentenced her to 28 years in jail in the post-Godhra riot case in which a mob killed 97 people. Kodnani punished for a 28-year jail term while Bajrangi was sentenced imprisonment till his last breath. While all the convicts appealed against their convictions, the SIT sought enhancing sentences of three convicts, including former Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel.
Kodnani's acquittal, which was marked by several judges recusing themselves and a high-profile testimony in her favour by BJP president Amit Shah, is the second that has raised eyebrows in this week - on April 16, all accused, including Swami Aseemanand, were acquitted in the 2007 Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case, for "want of evidence".
The rioting took place on February 28, 2002, in the Naroda Patiaya area of Ahmedabad where a mob killed 97 people, majority from a minority community.
While finding Kodnani guilty, a designated special court held in 2012 that she was one of the "principal conspirators" in the Naroda Patiya violence.
All the convicts had appealed against their conviction in the High Court. Swamy Aseemanand was acquitted in the Mecca Masjid blasts case recently, Sadhvi Pragya, also accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts and other cases, is out on bail.
Out of the 32 convictions, the Gujarat high court today acquitted 17 persons including former BJP MLA and minister Kodnani in the case. Ten persons were sentenced to prison for 31 years, while the rest were handed down 24-year imprisonment by special judge Jyotsna Yagnik, reported The Times of India (TOI).
Moreover, the bench turned down an appeal filed by the victims for compensation. Besides Babu Bajrangi, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Chara alias Suresh Langda have been convicted under the IPC 120 (B) as key conspirators. Desai said that there was no police witness to testify that he/she saw Kodnani at the crime site.