Former Gujarat Minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, a leader of Bajrang Dal, were among the over 60 accused who were acquitted in the Naroda Gam case.
The case is one of the nine, major communal riots cases investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court. It was related to the burning of homes in which 11 Muslims were killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The verdict was announced by a Special Court in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
The acquittal has come as a setback for the families of the victims. Samshad Pathan, the lawyer of the victims, said that they will challenge the acquittal in the Gujarat High Court, as they don't know on what basis the special court acquitted all the accused. Pathan added that they had all the evidence against the accused, including FSL (foreign science laboratory) reports, cell tower location, and eyewitnesses.
The lawyer also pointed out that the verdict is not just against the victims, but also against the SIT, which did its work properly and charged 86 accused. Pathan added that the verdict is also against the Supreme Court, which had formed the SIT.
Maya Kodnani was a minister in the Gujarat government headed by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2002, when the riots broke out following the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express in which Hindu pilgrims were travelling in Gujarat's Godhra. She was also convicted in the Naroda Patiya riots case in which 97 people were massacred and was sentenced to 28 years. However, she was later discharged by the Gujarat High Court.
Home Minister Amit Shah appeared in court as a defence witness for Ms Kodnani in 2017.
The acquittal is likely to raise a big political storm, especially after 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case were given remission just before the Gujarat election last year in November. Bilkis Bano is a survivor of the 2002 Gujarat riots in which seven members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, were murdered.
The lawyer of those who have been acquitted said that they are waiting for a copy of the judgment. Over 80 people were named as accused in the Naroda Gam case, and 18 died during the trial.