The judge of the Porbandar court, who had been hearing criminal appeal of Water Resources Minister Babu Bokhiria against the latter’s conviction in the illegal mining case of 2006, has been transferred, raising the prospect of delay in deciding the case. Meanwhile, the court on Monday postponed the matter till May 13 on the application of an RTI activist, Dilip Kataria.
On Monday, Kataria’s advocate sought adjournment of the case, saying his appeal — seeking transfer of the case to another court — had been pending with the Gujarat High Court. Principal district and sessions judge of Porbandar, I B Vaghela, who was presiding over the hearing on the last day of his posting in Porbandar, granted Kataria’s plea and fixed the matter on May 13 for further hearing. Judge Vaghela, who had been hearing Bokhiria’s appeal since June last year, was transferred as Principal district and sessions judge of Rajkot on April 29. The transfer will come into effect from Tuesday.
Incidentally, a magisterial court in Porbandar had convicted Bokhiria, Bhima Dula Odedra, Lakshman Bhima Odedra and Bokhiria’s relative and former Congress MP Bharat Odedra on June 15 last year and sentenced them to three years of imprisonment. They were found guilty of illegally mining Rs 54 crore worth of limestone from the lease area of a private company in Porbandar.
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However, Bokhiria and the trio had moved the sessions court against the magisterial court’s verdict on June 17. Hearing the matter, judge Vaghela had granted interim bail to all the four convicts and later stayed Bokhiria’s conviction on July 20 last year. The court of judge Vaghela was expected to deliver its final verdict on Bokhiria’s appeal on April 16, but it postponed the matter till May 2 initially, and then on May 5. The court on Monday again deferred the verdict till May 13 on Kataria’s appeal.
Vaghela had been posted in Porbandar since June 2012. Now, he has been replaced by V B Mayani, who was principal district and sessions judge of Valsad. The transfer means the court is likely to hear arguments in the case all over again, raising the prospect of delay in verdict, Bhima Odedra’s lawyer Kanu Odedra said. Congress had made Bokhiria’s conviction in the case and his continuance in the Gujarat government an election issue and sought electoral gains from it. In Rajkot, Vaghela will replace Ilesh Vora, who, in turn, has been transferred to Valsad.