Of the 19 people convicted on Thursday for their role in the 2004 Vikhroli hooch tragedy, which killed 87 Mumbaiites and left another 327 in hospitals, the four key accused will serve the life sentence and pay a fine of Rs 20,000 each.
Most of the 15 others, all sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment, will walk free after paying a fine of Rs 2,000 each as they have already spent more than two years in jail prior to the sessions court verdict.
The four main accused – Pradeep D’mello, Dayaram Mhatre, Pandit Kalan and Vishnu Mhatre – had arranged for methanol, a toxic chemical, and mixed it with country liquor, which they sent to the big distributors, who in turn sold it to local bootleggers.
The incident took place on December 25, 2004, after two separate groups of people consumed this spurious liquor at the parties they attended.
The accused were initially booked under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, but subsequently they were charged and tried under section 304(A) (causing death by negligence) of the IPC along with section 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, with intent to commit offence), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), 272 (adulteration of food or drink intended for sale) and 273 (sale of noxious food or drink) as well as sections under the Bombay Prohibition Act.
The court rejected the prosecution’s conspiracy theory – that the accused had conspired and made spurious liquor to make more profits – stating that the evidence produced was not convincing.
Vaibhav Baghade, special public prosecutor, had demanded that the accused be awarded the maximum punishment as they had intentionally distributed spurious liquor, which was hazardous to health.
Baghade pleaded with the court to suggest to the state government that the BP Act
be amended to make for a tougher law and harsher punishments.
The accused had pleaded that they were innocent and had been falsely implicated, and sought mercy on the grounds of family responsibility and poor financial situation.
Following the judgment, the defence advocates said their clients would challenge the order in the higher court.