Water resources minister Babu Bokhiria has filed a plea in the Gujarat high court (HC) seeking to make him a respondent in a petition that has sought criminal action against him in the Rs54 crore mining theft case.
Bokhiria was elected as MLA from Porbandar in the recently concluded assembly polls and enjoys a cabinet rank in the Narendra Modi government. The court will conduct further hearing in the case on February 11.
Bokhiria was arrested in connection with the case in 2007, but was released on bail after spending a few days in jail. The case is pending before a court in Porbandar.
“Bokhiria has moved plea in our matter in which we sought addition of criminal offences against him regarding procurement of explosive substances meant for mines by misusing government royalty slips of the other parties,” said VH Kanara, counsel for Dilip Kataria, an RTI activist based in Porbandar.
Bokhiria’s lawyer, Prakash Thakkar, said, “We have filed a plea to join as the party respondent in the matter to argue our side and it’s adjourned by the court.”
Babu Bokhiria, Bhima Dula Odedara, Bharat Odedara and Laxman Bhima Odedra are facing charges of committing theft of limestone worth of Rs54.19 crore from mines belonging to Saurashtra Chemicals Limited, which was subsequently taken over by the Nirma group, at Bhavnagar.
The company’s assistant manager, Umesh Bhavsar, had lodged a complaint before the Bagdar police station against them on October 5, 2006. According to the complaint, Bokhiria and three other men occupied the mines and dug up limestone which was subsequently sold to industries.
Later, the police filed an application before the court, wanting to add more sections as it was revealed during the probe that the accused had used royalty slips of other lease owners to procure explosive material to excavate limestone from mines. Kataria also filed a plea supporting the police but the court refused to add the sections. Hence, he approached the HC in September last year.
SC lifts stay on trial against the other accused
The trial in the case related to the sensational murder of Porbandar-based Congress leader Mulu Modhwadia is set to begin as the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, lifted the stay granted by it on December 17, 2008. Gujarat water resources minister Babu Bokhiria is among the accused in the case. However, Bokhiria got relief as the bench of Justice KS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifulla retained the stay on the trial against him.
“Trial of the case was halted as SC had granted stay order in 2008 following a petition filed by Bokhiria challenging his inclusion as co-accused in the case. Hence, we had moved a plea to lift the stay as some of the accused are languishing in jail since six years,” said Virat Popat, counsel for Vajesing Bhutia, one of the accused in the case and applicant before the Supreme Court.
“Now the court has lifted the stay and the trial will begin again. The court had already examined 134 witnesses when the stay was granted. However, the trial would be pending against Bokhiria as the bench has continued stay against him,” the lawyer said.
On November 16, 2005, Congres leader Mulu Modhwadiya was gunned down at point-blank range outside his house in Porbandar. After his son registered an FIR at Kamlabaug police station, the police had arrested Bhima Dula and ten others related to the case and filed a charge sheet on February 15, 2006.
Bokhiria is facing charges including murder and conspiracy as he was made a co-accused by the lower court in Porbandar on March 12, 2008. The court’s order was in response to an application filed by Modhwadia’s son that a chit was found from the body of his father apprehending threat to his life from Bokhiria. The minister then approached the Gujarat high court but was not given any relief.
Ultimately, he filed a plea before the Supreme Court against the lower court order.
The murder sparked off a controversy as it allegedly happened due to political and business rivalry. Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia sat on a fast seeking justice to Mulu Modhwadia’s family.