The death toll due to the consumption of spurious liquor in Gujarat's Botad district has reached 42, a state minister said on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference in Gandhinagar, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi also said the police will file a charge sheet in the case in 10 days and the trial will be held in a fast-track court.
"Forty-two citizens have died so far after consuming spurious liquor laced with highly toxic methyl alcohol in Gujarat's Botad district two days back. Fifteen key accused, right from the one who acquired the chemical and those who sold the liquor to people, have already been arrested," he said.
Since Tuesday, nine persons admitted to various hospitals died during treatment.
Nearly 97 people are still admitted in hospitals in Bhavnagar, Botad and Ahmedabad, he said.
"Police will file a charge sheet in the case in 10 days and the trial will be held in a fast track court," Sanghavi said, adding that the government will also appoint a special public prosecutor to fight the case.
Police in Botad and Ahmedabad on Tuesday registered three first information reports against nearly 20 accused under Indian Penal Code Sections 302 (murder), 328 (causing hurt by poison) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and have arrested at least 15 of them so far, the minister said.
The Vadodara rural police on Wednesday nabbed Jatubha Rathod, one of the accused in an FIR registered by Barvala police in Botad and absconding since being booked, an official said.
The hooch tragedy had come to light early Monday morning when some people living in Rojid village of Botad and other surrounding villages were referred to government hospitals in Barvala area and Botad towns with deteriorating health conditions.
Primary investigations by police have revealed that some small-time bootleggers of different villages of Botad district had made spurious liquor by mixing water with methyl alcohol or Methanol, a highly poisonous industrial solvent, and sold it to villagers for Rs 20 per pouch.
According to police, forensic analysis has established that the victims consumed methyl alcohol.
After this tragedy, Sanghavi announced that the state Home Department has decided to tighten the control over the production and sale of methyl alcohol in the state.
The Gujarat home department has formed a three-member committee, headed by senior Indian Police Service officer Subhash Trivedi, to conduct a detailed inquiry into the incident and submit a report within three days, as per a government release.
Police investigation has revealed that a person named Jayesh aka Raju, who has been arrested, had stolen 600 litres of methyl alcohol from a godown in Ahmedabad where he worked as a manager and then sold it to his Botad-based cousin Sanjay for Rs 40,000 on July 25.
Despite knowing that it was an industrial solvent, Sanjay sold the chemical to local bootleggers of different villages of Botad.
These bootleggers mixed water in the chemical and sold it to people as country-made liquor, the police said.