Former BJP MP Dinu Solanki and six others were on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in July 2010. The special CBI judge found the seven guilty on Saturday and had reserved the pronouncement of quantum of punishment.
A special CBI court had found all the accused — Solanki, his nephew Shiva Solanki, Sanjay Chauhan, Shailesh Pandya, Pachan Desai, Udaji Thakore and police constable Bahadursinh Vader — guilty under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy to commit an offence) and Section 25(1) of Arms Act (illegal possession of arms or ammunition).
The court in its verdict also ordered proceedings to be initiated against all the 105 witnesses who turned hostile.
The special CBI judge KM Dave imposed a total penalty sum of Rs 59,25,000 on all convicts.
Moreover, of this amount, Rs 11 lakh shall be dedicated towards the family of Jethwa, as ordered by the court. This would include fixed deposits in a national bank worth five lakh rupees for Jethwa’s wife and three lakh rupees each for two of Jethwa’s young sons.
Jethwa was shot dead on July 20, 2010, by two assailants outside the Gujarat High Court for exposing illegal mining activities in Gir forest allegedly by Solanki. After the firing, both the assailants fled, leaving behind their Bajaj Discover motorcycle, with registration number GJ-01-DQ-2482, along with a country-made revolver – the weapon of assault – on the spot.
In the initial investigation by the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) of Ahmedabad, Solanki, who was an MP from Junagadh at that time, was not named in the two chargesheets filed against the accused.
The DCB, then under Joint Commissioner of Police, who is now the DGP & IG (Prisons), had given a clean chit to Dinu Solanki.
When the trial began, witnesses started turning hostile. Of the 195 witnesses who were to depose, 105 had turned hostile.
Thereafter, Bhikabhai moved the Gujarat High Court seeking a re-trial in the case following which the court of Justice JB Pardiwala had directed a fresh trial of 26 witnesses. The HC had also replaced the then special judge CBI Dinesh L Patel.
Notably, Judge KM Dave had sought round-the-clock protection for himself and his family, citing the sensitivity of the case earlier. Judge Dave was subsequently granted protection.
On Saturday, Bhikabhai hailed the judgment and told media persons, “The judgment today is a victory for us, the judiciary, the Constitution and makes us believe in the judicial system and that goons can be defeated.”
Solanki was serving his parliamentary term when he was arrested in 2013 from Delhi and was chargesheeted in the murder case. The CBI had accused him as the main conspirator.