RTI activist's murder: Life-term of ex-BJP MP suspended

Gujarat HC suspends life-term of ex-BJP MP in RTI activist's murder case

Amit Jethva, an RTI activist, was shot dead on July 20, 2010 outside Gujarat High Court

Representative image. Credit: iStock

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday suspended the life-term sentence of former BJP parliamentarian from Junagadh Dinu Bogha Solanki in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethva and ordered to release him on bail. Solanki has been behind bars for more than three years following his conviction in the murder case in 2019 along with six others.

The division bench of justice Paresh Upadhyay and justice A C Joshi held that the case was based on circumstantial evidence and the CBI court's order to convict Solanki is "prima facie erroneous and unsustainable." The bench said that the lower court's conclusion was based merely on "assumptions and presumptions." The court ordered release of Solanki on bail on furnishing Rs 1 lakh bond and equal amount of surety. The court has asked Solanki to deposit his passport and not to leave the country.  

"Circumstantial evidence in this case not only leads to many other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused even false implication of the applicant cannot be ruled out...though we need not stretch it to the extent whether this is a case of acquittal or not but we have no hesitation to arrive at the conclusion that even if the aspect of false implication of the present applicant for political consideration in the circumstances prevailing then is not gone into, the conviction under section 302 of IPC (murder) with aide of 120B (conspiracy) is less likely to sustain," the bench noted in the order.

Granting relief to Solanki, the bench has stated, "We again record that, we have not reappreciated the evidence but we only note that, the CBI Court fell in error by taking into consideration irrelevant aspects and arrived at the conclusion, where no man with ordinary prudence would have arrived at, on the basis of material before it. The conviction of the applicant suffers from the vice of perversity. This also indicates that the CBI Court based the conviction in question on assumptions & presumptions and also conjunctures & surmises. While recording this, we note that, to arrive at this conclusion, neither close scrutiny nor scanning of any evidence in detail, is required.

Amit Jethva, an RTI activist, was shot dead on July 20, 2010 outside Gujarat High Court. Using information through RTI, he was exposing the alleged illegal mining activities in Asiatic lions' habitat Gir forest by Solanki. In 2019, a special CBI court found Solanki and six others including his nephew Shiva Solanki, Shailesh Pandya, the shooter, Bahadursinh Vadher, Panchan G Desai, Sanjay Chauhan and Udaji Thakore guilty and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The case has witnessed several twists and turns in the past. Initially, the case was investigated by Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch which gave clean chit to Solanki and arrested the other six convicts. Jethva's father Bhikha moved to High Court which handed over the probe to the CBI, which arrested Solanki and chargesheeted him for murder, conspiracy among other charges as a main suspect.  Later the cases were clubbed together for trial. During the trial, many witnesses turned hostile following threats.

Jethva’s father moved the High Court again seeking fresh trial on the ground that 105 witnesses out of a total of 195 had turned hostile allegedly under the pressure from the former BJP leader. By then, the trial had concluded. The court allowed his plea and ordered a fresh trial. Against this order, Solanki moved the Supreme Court which partly allowed his plea while ordering the trial court to recall only 26 key witnesses for fresh examination instead of a fresh trial.

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