A court in Gujarat’s Botad on August 12 rejected the anticipatory bail pleas of four directors and an employee of Amos Enterprise Ltd in relation to two FIRs lodged at the Barwala and Ranpur police stations after at least 42 people were killed on consuming spurious liquor.
Directors of the company Samir Patel (58), Pankaj Patel (84), Chandubhai Patel (90) and Ranjit Choksi (53), besides manager Rajendrakumar Dasadiya (56) had moved the Botad district and sessions court last week seeking anticipatory bail.
Amos Enterprises had run into trouble after its methanol-producing unit was sealed following an admission by Jayesh Khavdiya, a supervisor at the firm, before the magistrate that methyl alcohol was stolen from the company’s unit ahead of the tragedy.
It was the prosecution’s case that the accused had failed to remain present before the investigating authorities following summons under CrPC section 160 which grants police officers the power to require the attendance of witnesses. It was also submitted that per the provisions of the Prohibition Act, company directors too are as responsible as company owners and company employees, and that directors cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility of “illegal activities in the company”.
It was also pointed out by the prosecution that conditions imposed under the grant of licence to manufacture methyl alcohol too were violated. Given that the directors of the company knew what the “misuse of methyl alcohol can result in” and despite methyl alcohol being stolen from the company premises, “till date there’s no complaint filed on such theft by the company or its directors or its employees anywhere”, it was submitted.
The directors, meanwhile, primarily submitted that they had no role in the alleged offences and that they have not been named as accused in the two FIRs.
The court of principal district and sessions judge K R Prajapati observed that there is a “prima facie case” against the directors and the employee. Taking into account the seriousness of the offence, its outcome and that the directors had failed to remain present before the investigating authorities despite police summons, the court refused to grant them anticipatory bail.
Earlier, the four directors had moved the Gujarat High Court with anticipatory bail pleas but had withdrawn the pleas after they failed to make out a case for exceptional circumstances that would require the high court to hear the pleas instead of the court concerned with the appropriate jurisdiction, that is the Botad sessions court.