A special CBI court on Wednesday ordered police protection for four crucial witnesses who had deposed during the trial in the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in 2010. The court had on July 11 convicted former BJP MP Dinu Solanki and six others and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the murder.
Legal sources said that the period of protection given to witnesses expired the day the court pronounced its judgment, following which Special CBI Judge KM Dave chose to extend protection, considering the perception of threat to the witnesses.
Of the four witness, main witness Rama Haja Solanki has been granted protection until January 20, 2020. Two others, Dharmen-dragiri Goswami and Bhagwan-das Himmatbhai Dhakan, have been granted protection until August 16 this year, while advocate Anand Yagnik, a star independent witness, has been granted protection for four weeks.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rama Solanki said, “I have had police protection for the past four years. On the day of the judgment (July 11), a man called at 6.48 pm , merely hours after the court pronounced its verdict, threatening to kill me.” He said the man claimed to be calling from Surendranagar. “The next day, I filed an application at the Kodinar police station as well as before the court seeking police protection.”
He said he had also requested the court to order that appropriate legal action be taken against the person who issued the threat. On July 12, Judge Dave granted “full police protection till July 17”. On Wednesday, the court granted a further extension in the period of protection until January 2020.
Rama Solanki used to work for the former MP Dinu Solanki at his farmhouse in Harmadiya. By his own submission, Rama was investigated and cross-examined as a witness and his statement taken on May 16, 2013.
Dharmendragiri Balugiri Goswami, another key witness and resident of Una, was among 26 witnesses re-examined by the special CBI court. Goswami said, “It was at my hotel, Hotel Comfort Inn, where the murder was plotted. I have had police protection since the re-trial was ordered in 2017.” Goswami was re-examined in 2018. As per court records, on February 1, 2018, after completion of the first part of his cross-examination, Goswami informed the court that his wife had telephoned him and told him that somebody had kidnapped their son.
However, his wife later informed him that their son had returned home. Following this incident, judge Dave said, “…if police protection to the witness and his family is extended till pronouncement and final judgment, it would serve the purpose and if the witness intends police protection even for further time, he may approach this court for further relief.”
Bhagwandas Dhakan, who had been re-examined in January 2018, expressed fear of being attacked by the accused or their family members. The court extended his police protection until pronouncement of the judgment.
Sources said an assessment would be made and depending on the threat perception, further extension may be granted to the four key witnesses.