The Gujarat high court has dismissed a plea seeking withdrawal of a 2007 mob violence case against ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Dharmendrasinh alias Hakubha Jadeja and others, saying the state government is trying to save him “anyhow and at any cost” under the pretext of larger public interest.

Dharmendrasinh defected from the Congress to BJP ahead of the 2017 assembly elections and was elected from Jamnagar (North) constituency. He was a minister before chief minister Vijay Rupani and his entire Cabinet was changed in 2021.

The BJP is likely to field Rivaba Jadeja in place of Dharmendrasinh from Jamnagar (North) in view of the court verdict on Wednesday, said a party functionary on condition of anonymity. Rivaba Jadeja joined the BJP in 2019. She is cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife.

Dharmendrasinh was booked after a mob threw stones at erstwhile Essar Oil (Nayara Energy)’s buses and left some employees injured at Khambhalia in December 2007. Police personnel deployed there were also injured. The violence was triggered during an agitation over issues related to local agriculturists.

Dharmendrasinh was charged in 2008. In October 2020, the assistant public prosecutor in charge of the case submitted an application for withdrawal from the case against all 46 accused in the case in a local court. The application was rejected.

The state government and Dharmendrasinh later approached a sessions court, which also rejected the pleas. In August this year, an application for the withdrawal of the case was filed in the high court.

The high court wondered how would withdrawal of the criminal case advance the cause of justice. In his 20-page order, Justice Niral Mehta said it appears the application was not filed with bona fide intention. “…is filed only with a view to see that sitting MLA [member of legislative assembly] shall escape from liability to undergo [the] rigours of trial”.

Mehta said the special public prosecutor should have applied his mind before filing the fresh application for the withdrawal of the case. “…it [is] established beyond any doubt that Special Public Prosecutor has acted on the instructions of government only and thereby rendered himself as merely a ‘postman’. The…application appears to have been filed not in a good faith, in the interest of public policy and justice.”

The court said it appears to have been filed purely with a political interest. “…therefore, the same is nothing but an attempt to thwart and stifle the process of law,” it said. “This court cannot be a mute spectator and should not grant permission merely upon asking.”

By Shadab

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