The Porbandar District Sessions Court on Thursday concluded the trial on the appeal against conviction of Babu Bokhiriya, Agriculture & Water Resources Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, and reserved its judgment tentatively for March 31. Bokhiriya was convicted by a magisterial court for illegal mining of limestone to the tune of Rs 54 crore in Porbandar.
The case has become a major embarrassment for the Narendra Modi-led government and which is being frequently raked up by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kerjriwal. A possible acquittal of Bokhiriya in the case may prove to be a shot in the arm for the Modi government.
District government pleader of Porbandar, S B Jethwa, told The Indian Express that the court of Principal District Judge I B Vaghela concluded hearing final arguments of both the sides in the criminal appeal case on Thursday and reserved its judgment tentatively for March 31.
Bokhiriya and three others — Bharat Odedra, former Congress MP and a relative of Bokhiriya, Bhima Dula Odedra and Lakshman Bhima Odedra — were pronounced guilty on June 15 last year and sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 each by a magisterial court.
However, Bokhiriya had moved an application for the suspension of conviction before the Sessions Court and which was allowed by Vaghela in July 2013. While granting the suspension of the conviction application by Bokhiriya, the court had, among other things, considered the fact that he would be de facto disqualified as an MLA if his conviction was not suspended pending his appeal. Against this order, at least three petitions have been moved before HC which are pending.
Meanwhile, the four convicts had also moved an appeal against the conviction before the Sessions Court and its trial has been almost completed on Thursday, with the court reserving its judgment for March 31.
Bokhiria, 60, is leading the lot of tainted BJP MLAs in Gujarat Assembly, with others like Purshottam Solanki and Amit Shah. He had lost to Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia in the 2002 Assembly elections. In 2007, he could not contest the Assembly elections owing to an externment order against him in Porbandar in connection with the same illegal mining case. However, in the 2012 assembly elections, he was given a BJP ticket. This time, he defeated Modhwadia and was rewarded with a Cabinet rank in the Modi government.