After the conviction last year of Maya Kodnani for her role in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002, Babu Bokhiria became the second minister from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet to be sent to jail when a district court in the State sentenced him to three years imprisonment in a Rs 54 crore illegal mining case.
The court sentenced the Minister, two of his close relatives and the former Porbandar MP, Bharat Odedara, for carrying out limestone mining in government land in Porbandar district.
Mr. Bokhiria was arrested and granted bail for seven days to file an appeal against the ruling. He continues as a Cabinet Minister holding the charge of Agriculture, Water Resources, Irrigation and Fisheries ministries.
State government spokespersons and Ministers, Nitin Patel and Saurabh Patel, were not available for comment on the trial court verdict.
“This is the first time in Gujarat that a senior Cabinet Minister has been sentenced for illegal mining in government land. If the Modi government has any morality left, it must sack the Minister from the Cabinet after the court’s ruling,” Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
In 2006-07, the Porbandar district administration unearthed an illegal limestone mining racket involving several firms, including Mr. Bokhiria’s. These firmsreportedly evaded paying the government royalty worth more than Rs. 100 crore. The district administration had filed several cases, but this is the first in which the accused have been convicted.
Following the district administration’s drive against illegal mining and political nexus, the government transferred the then Porbandar Collector H.N. Chhibber, who had launched the drive. In 2007, Mr. Bokhiria, a close aide of Mr. Modi, was arrested and jailed for five months and subsequently got bail.