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Friday, October 22, 2021

Gujarat HC suspends life imprisonment sentence of former MP Dinu Solanki in RTI activist’s murder

The bench came to the decision relying on Supreme Court judgments and held that the conviction was primarily arrived at by the trial court “based on circumstantial evidence.”

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad |
September 30, 2021 1:43:54 pm
BJP MP Dinu Solanki.

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday suspended the rigorous imprisonment for life punishment of former BJP MP Dinu Solanki in connection with the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa. It also granted Solanki conditional bail.

In July 2019, a special CBI Court in Ahmedabad had sentenced the ex-BJP MP from Junagadh and six others to life imprisonment.

Solanki’s sentence was suspended for the duration of the pendency of his appeal against the special CBI court conviction, before the Gujarat High Court. Imprisoned at Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad at present, the court of Justices Paresh Upadhyay and Ashokkumar Joshi came to the decision relying on Supreme Court judgments and held that the conviction was primarily arrived at by the trial court “based on circumstantial evidence.”

“The conviction recorded by the CBI court prima facie is erroneous and unsustainable, qua the present applicant (Solanki)…this court has read the relevant pages of the impugned judgment. Having done that exercise, we find that there is breach of all the parameters, principles prescribed by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Sharad Sarda (supra) and State of Goa (supra)…when the circumstances against the applicant are taken cumulative, we do not find any chain of evidence being established leading to conclusion that in all probability, the crime was committed by the applicant…” the bench said.

“We further find that the circumstantial evidences in this case not only leads to many other hypotheses than that of the guilt of the accused, but even false implication of the applicant can also be part made out…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 the IPC with the aid of 120B is less likely to sustain. For all the above reasons, the sentence imposed by the CBI court needs to be suspended and the applicant needs to be granted bail during the pendency of the appeal.” Justice Upadhyay read out in the open court from the operative part of the order on Thursday.

While suspending Solanki’s sentence, the court also recorded, “In totality, this court finds that on facts the conviction recorded by the CBI court is prima facie, principally based on assumptions and presumptions and the same is unsustainable qua the applicant.”

In 2010, Amit Jethwa had uncovered Dinu Solanki, and his involvement in illegal mining within a radius of five kilometres from the boundary of Gir Sanctuary area, through an RTI that he had filed. He had filed a special civil application in the High Court in this regard. On July 20, 2010, Jethwa was shot dead by two persons opposite the Gujarat High Court, outside the Bar Council building.

Dinu Solanki and six others — his nephew Shiva Solanki, Sanjay Chauhan, Shailesh Pandya, Pachan Desai, Udaji Thakore and police constable of Gir-Gadhada police station at the time, Bahadursinh Vader — were sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2019 after a special CBI court in Ahmedabad found them guilty under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy to commit an offence).

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