Congress MLA Lalit Vasoya and his former colleagues in the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), including Dinesh Bambhaniya, Dilip Sabva, and Amit Thummar along with 28 others got a relief Wednesday after a trial court at Jetpur town in Rajkot district allowed a state government plea to withdraw the case of rioting and criminal conspiracy against them.
The court of PG Goswami, the principal senior civil judge in Jetpur, allowed a pursis submitted by special public prosecutor Mahesh Joshi to withdraw the case filed against Vasoya and 32 others in 2017 during the height of the Patidar quota stir in the state.
“We had received an order from the district magistrate of Rajkot to file an application to the effect that the prosecution does not wish to pursue the matter. Accordingly, we filed today such an application under the CrPC Section 321 with the order of the district magistrate as an attachment. The court granted our plea and dropped proceedings against all the accused,” Joshi told The Indian Express.
The Jetpur town police had booked Vasoya, Bambhaniya and others after PAAS convenor Hardik Patel’s supporters had clashed with a group, Leuva Patel Samaj (LPS), while the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee working president’s convoy was passing through Sardar Chowk in Jetpur town in February 2017. Hardik was on his way to Devki-Galol village but members of LPS had allegedly tried to block his way in Sardar Chowk, leading to stone pelting between the two groups.
“While a chargesheet was filed in the case, the court had not framed charges against the accused. CrPC Section 321 confers power on the prosecution to move a plea to withdraw cases and the government exercised that power. The matter was closed after the court concurred with our submission,” Joshi added.
The move comes around two months after the Supreme Court ordered expeditious disposal of cases involving sitting and former lawmakers in the country.
Sabva, who is a native of Botad district, had formally joined the BJP a few days ago.
Vasoya and Bhanderi were among the three PAAS leaders whom the Congress had subsequently given party tickets to contest the Assembly elections in December 2017.
Bhanderi was replaced by Bhikha Joshi at the last minute but Vasoya had contested the election from Dhoraji Assembly seat and had emerged victorious.
His victory had ended the dominance of Vitthal Radadiya family over Dhoraji seat even as the Congress failed to dislodge the BJP from power in the state.
Talking to The Indian Express after the case against him was withdrawn, Vasoya thanked the state government.
“The government had announced that cases filed during the Patidar quota stir would be withdrawn. Somehow, the case involving me was not. But now that the government has withdrawn it, I have to thank the government,” said the opposition MLA.
Vasoya said he was aware that trial was on in a number of cases related to violence during the quota stir but refused to respond to a query if he had made any representations to the government to get the case against him withdrawn. “Trial is on in the majority of the cases and it is a matter of relief that the case against us has been withdrawn. Such being my nature, I had not pleaded with the government to withdraw the case. But I don’t want to say anything more as the government has done our work anyhow,” the Congress MLA said.
A trial court in Dhrol of Jamnagar district had last month convicted sitting BJP MLA Raghvji Patel and four others in a rioting case of 2007.
The state government had submitted a pursis under CrPC Section 321 in this case too, but the court had rejected it stating such a plea could not be entertained when the matter was pending for pronouncement of judgment.
The court had sentenced the BJP MLA and others to six months imprisonment.
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