Bakery judge skirts job row

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By BASANT RAWAT in Ahemdabad
  • Published 8.06.04
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Two of the accused in the Best Bakery case being taken to the sessions court in Mumbai on Monday. (PTI)

Ahmedabad, June 8: The judge who acquitted all the 21 accused in the Best Bakery case last year, H.U. Mahida, has declined the post of legal adviser to the Gujarat Electricity Board after his appointment sparked an uproar.

Mahida, who retired as additional district and sessions judge a few months ago, had been appointed legal adviser last week at a hefty salary.

The appointment by the Narendra Modi government came under criticism since Mahida’s acquittal of the accused had sparked a huge controversy, leading the Supreme Court to order a retrial of the case outside Gujarat. The apex court had also criticised the way riot cases were being tried in the state.

The Opposition Congress in Gujarat, sniffing a quid pro quo in Mahida’s appointment, had shot off a letter to Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj and the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, urging them to bring his appointment to the Supreme Court’s notice.

The Congress letter to Bhardwaj had caused an uproar and, sensing trouble, Mahida wrote to the board, expressing his inability to accept the post “owing to personal reasons’’.

Mahida’s new post had been questioned in political and legal circles as well. Leader of the Opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary said in the Assembly that the judge had first been brought out of retirement to head the fast-track court which pronounced the Best Bakery verdict and was now being “rewarded’’ after his term ended.

The leader pointed out that Mahida’s Rs 30,000 a month salary, besides perks, was twice the amount the previous legal adviser got. He said “this only showed the attitude of the Gujarat government towards the Best Bakery case for which it has already been indicted by the apex court’’. A Supreme Court-ordered retrial has just opened in neighbouring Maharashtra.

However, Gujarat law minister Ashok Bhatt defended Mahida’s appointment as legal adviser, saying the electricity board had an autonomous body and has every right to appoint an able jurist to the post that has been lying vacant for two years.

The minister said now that Mahida had declined the post, “no one should have any problem” even as he maintained there was no procedural violation and that the judge had been shortlisted from five candidates after the credentials of each was examined.

Gujarat Congress chief B.K. Gadhvi is happy that his party managed to compel Mahida into declining the “lucrative offer’’. Any self-respecting person would have refused it, he said.

Electricity board member (administration) Guruprasad Mohapatra said that in view of the judge declining the offer, the board had decided to withdraw the contract.