Former BJP MP Dinu Bogha Solanki and six others, including a police constable, were found guilty of the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in July 2010 by a special CBI court of Ahmedabad on Saturday. The quantum of sentence is expected to be pronounced on July 11. The seven — Dinu Bogha Solanki, his nephew Shiva Solanki, Sanjay Chauhan, Shailesh Pandya, Pachan Desai, Udaji Thakore and police constable Bahadursinh Vader — were tried 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).
Jethwa was shot dead on July 20, 2010 by two assailants outside the Gujarat High Court. Through RTI replies, he had exposed illegal mining activities in Gir forest allegedly by former MP Solanki. After the firing, both the assailants ran away, leaving behind their two-wheeler and a country-made revolver on the spot.
Initially, the case was investigated by the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) of Ahmedabad which filed two chargesheets against six accused. Dinu Solanki, who was an MP at the time, was not named in the chargesheet. At the time, Jethwa’s father Bhikabhai had sought an investigation by an independent body such as an SIT or CBI — a demand that was initially rejected. The six who were chargesheeted then were Shiva Solanki, Sanjay Chauhan, Shailesh Pandya, Pachan Desai, Udaji Thakore and police constable Bahadursinh Vader. The DCB, then under Joint Commissioner of Police, who is now the DGP & IG (Prisons), had given a clean chit to Dinu Solanki.
On September 6, 2010, Shiva Solanki was arrested from Rajkot airport. The Ahmedabad police had considered him as the main accused in the murder case. As reported by The Indian Express, the police investigation had suggested that the MP’s nephew might have hired the contract killers to kill the activist. Eventually, the police found out that Vadher was roped in to plan Jethwa’s murder. He allegedly planned the crime and executed it with the help of sharpshooters Shailesh Pandya and Pachan Desai. Police investigations also revealed that Sanjay Chauhan identified Jethwa for the sharpshooters. Udaji Thakor, a resident of Mehsana, was also part of the conspiracy.
According to the police, it was Bahadursinh who had first spilled the beans on Shiva Solanki during interrogation. He had told the police that six mines of Shiva Solanki were non-operational because of Jethwa’s application.
Jethwa’s father, now an 86-year-old frail man, was not satisfied with the investigation and approached the Gujarat High Court. Accordingly, on September 25, 2012, the High Court passed an order directing further investigation by the CBI. The agency filed a case under IPC Sections 302 and114 and Section 25(1)(b)(a) of Arms Act in New Delhi on October 6, 2012.
On Saturday, Bhikabhai hailed the judgment and told mediapersons, “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.”
Dinu Solanki, elected as a BJP MP in 2009 from Junagadh, 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.
Both the probes were clubbed together and the Central probe agency was asked to conduct the murder trial. When the trial began, 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. The court , after noting the facts of the case, allowed the same and also directed that the case be shifted from the then special judge CBI Dinesh L Patel’s court to another special CBI court.
The order of June 29, 2017, by Justice J B Pardiwala noted, “The CBI shall obtain the witness summons from the court concerned and start examining the witnesses afresh.” The retrial was ordered to be conducted on a day-to-day basis with in-camera proceedings.
Following the High Court’s order, the accused moved the Supreme Court, challenging the HC’s order. The apex court upheld the HC order and in its October 30, 2017 judgment, directed that the trial court shall summon 26 witnesses for fresh examination.