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Hooch tragedy case: Gujarat High Court stays judge’s transfer till July 9 to deliver verdict

CASE FILE: Extension was granted in the “interest of justice”

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Hooch tragedy case: Gujarat High Court stays judge’s transfer till July 9 to deliver verdict
Tragedy unfolded in Majoor Gam area, many lost lives after consuming toxic liquor
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The Gujarat High Court has extended the stay on the transfer of a sessions judge posted at Ahmedabad, who has already completed a marathon trial in a decade-old hooch tragedy case and is due to pronounce the verdict in the matter. 125 people had died due to the consumption of spurious and toxic liquor between July 5 and 7, 2009 in Odhav area of city and the trial, after passing several hands, was finally completed by sessions judge DP Mahida.

The extension of stay on Justice Mahida’s transfer was granted by the division bench of Acting Chief Justice AS Dave and Justice Biren Vaishnav in the “interest of justice” after one of the 24 under-trial accused in the case, Harishankar Kahar, who is languishing in jail for almost the past 10 years, moved the high court seeking an extension. Notably, the high court administration had in May issued transfer and posting orders for several lower court judges, with Justice Mahida being one of them.

However, after Kahar moved court, the division bench stayed the transfer till June 14 and then till June 20. Since, the sessions judge failed to pronounce the verdict in the case by June 20, the high court has extended the stay on transfer till July 9. Interestingly, the court has clarified that this is the last time the stay is being extended and no further extensions will be granted.

Justice Mahida was supposed to pronounce the verdict in the case on Friday. However, the police failed to produce all the accused in the case before the court citing preparations for the upcoming Rath Yatra, as a result of which the pronouncement of judgement was deferred till July 6.

Kahar had earlier submitted to the high court that Justice Mahida after investing over two months of the court’s precious time and by conducting a day-to-day hearing had completed the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, hearing, and final arguments in the case. He had also submitted that the sessions judge had reserved the judgment and was likely to pronounce the verdict in the case soon.

Justice Mahida had already pronounced the verdict in a related case of hooch tragedy in Kagdapith area in which 23 people had died on March 28, when the Odhav case was at an advanced stage of trial.

The division bench has now posted the matter for further hearing on July 9.

LOWDOWN

  • 125 people had died due to the consumption of spurious and toxic liquor between July 5 and 7, 2009 in Odhav area
     
  • One of the 24 under-trial accused, Harishankar Kahar, who is languishing in jail for the past 10 years, has moved to high court seeking an extension
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