Murder of RTI activist threat to judicial system, observes HC

Murder of RTI activist threat to judicial system, observes HC

Terming the murder of an RTI activist Amit Jethwa a direct threat to the judicial system and a challenge for the implementation of the RTI Act, Gujarat High Court today ordered a CBI probe into the case.

The division bench of Justices D H Vaghela and J C Upadhyay, today while conceding the demand of the RTI activist's father Bhikhabhai, also severely criticised the investigation into the case conducted by Gujarat police.

"The commission of murder, in the facts of the present case, amounted to an affront to the judicial system and a challenge to implementation of an Act of Parliament, with national repercussions and has to be viewed seriously," the bench has observed in its judgment.

A Right to Information (RTI) activist, Jethwa, who had filed numerous RTI applications and a PIL against illegal mining in Gir forest region, was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on July 20, 2010.

"Murder of a petitioner in a PIL and an RTI activist, in front of the High Court, could be read as a clear message to the concerned citizens that they may have to pay by their lives, if they insist upon using the tools placed in their hands by law and approach the court for redressal of public grievance against some individuals," court observed.

"Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the case on hand is thoroughly investigated and properly prosecuted by independent and competent officers, so as to inspire confidence and reaffirm  faith of the people in rule of law," court has added.

Court has asked the central agency to complete further investigation and file the report, preferably within six months. "Till CBI files report to the court of competent jurisdiction, further proceeding pursuant to the chargesheets submitted by Gujarat police, shall remain stayed," court has ordered.

"Investigation in Jethwa murder case was far from fair, independent, bona fide or prompt... in the interest of justice and to instill confidence in the investigation into a serious case having far reaching implications that we order that further investigation int the case shall be transferred to CBI," the court observed.

"Investigation into the murder of the petitioner's son does not appear to have been carried out in conformity with the legal provisions," the court observed further.

The probe in this case, which was carried out under the supervision of SP of Crime Branch (Ahmedabad) Mohan Jha, has come under severe criticism from the court.

"The control exercised by Mohan Jha, in-charge of the Crime Branch at that time, all throughout and even after the orders for further investigation by this court, provides sufficient ground to conclude that the investigation was controlled and the line of investigation was determined and supervised so as to put to naught the suspicion raised by the family members of the deceased," it said.

Court has also, in its order, has cleared the motive behind the killing of Jethwa, as his being an RTI activist.

"So many people, whose vested interests may have been affected by his applications under the RTI Act, could have a motive to contribute into his killing," court has added.
"Therefore, it is imperative that proper and comprehensive investigation is undertaken by an agency, which is not under the control of the state government," it said.

Though the court has refrained from commenting on what line of investigation should have been taken, it has overtly expressed some doubts about the efforts by the state police, in "shielding" the BJP MP Dinu Bogha Solanki.

"It has come on record that Shiva Solanki (nephew of BJP MP and prime accused in the case) and DB (Dinu Bogha Solanki) were living together in a joint family and no investigator could have been easily satisfied with the statements that they did not interact in respect of the conspiracy to commit a capital crime," court has observed.

Court has also directed the Gujarat police to hand over all the papers of the investigation to the CBI within 10 days and to cooperate with the agency.

After the pronouncement of the judgement, the government pleader requested for a stay of three weeks to challenge the order in the higher forum, which was rejected by the court.

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