Former BJP MP Dinu Bogha Solanki, who is considered to be a close aide of Amit Shah, and six others were found guilty of the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa by a CBI special court of Ahmedabad on July 6. The seven accused, including Bahadursinh Vader, a police constable; Shiva Solanki, nephew of Dinu Bogha Solanki; Sanjay Chauhan, Sailesh Pandya, Pachan Desai and Udaiji Thakore were tried under section 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 120B (criminal conspiracy to commit an offence) of the Indian Penal Code and 25(1) of Arms Act (illegal possession of arms or ammunition).
The quantum of punishment of the sentence is expected to be pronounced on July 11.
The trial of Amit Jethwa murder case has seen many twists and turns through a long legal battle that his family fought in Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court.
Amit Jethwa hailed from Khamba, a small village on the edge of Amreli district in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. He belonged to a middle-class joint family and lived in a house where Jethwa and his three siblings were born and raised until Amit Jethwa, the eldest son and sole earner of the family was shot dead on July 20, 2010, in front of the Gujarat HC.
The house still stands where Bhikhabhai Jethwa, 64-year-old father of Amit, has been residing alone.
After the murder, the emotionally and financially broken family began getting threats as Bhikhabhai Jethwa decided to pursue the case. Over the years, all members of the Jethwa family, except Bhikhabhai had to move out of Khamba for security reasons and earning livelihood.
“I received around a dozen threats just after he (Amit) died, warning me to not file a complaint. My wife was threatened and my son-in-law was attacked. They even attempted to lure me with money,” said Bhikhabhai.
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“After Amit was murdered our family has been living in fear, its only our father who remains undaunted. Amit had taken responsibility of the entire family when our father was rendered semi paralytic due to cervical and lumbar spondylitis. A lot has changed after his death, he was the sole earner and a father figure to all of us,” said Jignesh Jethwa, Amit’s younger brother.
“It was a Tuesday, around 8:45 PM when we received the news of his demise. Our mother was affected the most, till this day she doesn’t eat anything on Tuesdays,” he added.
Why was Amit Jethwa Killed?
Amit Jethwa, a pharmacist by profession managed to find a government job but soon he ended up objecting to the private sale of medicines and was first transferred to Kutch and then to a remote district on the Maharashtra- Gujarat border. He quit his job and became a full-time activist in 2007.
He went on to become the president of the Gir Nature Youth Club at Khamba and was involved in high profile cases like the one against Salman Khan for shooting Chinkara, an endangered deer and also highlighted the use of Chinkaras in the movie Lagaan.
In 2007, he exposed the mysterious deaths of lions in Gir forest and uncovered a big lion-poaching gang. In the same year, he contested the Assembly election against Dinu Bogha Solanki from Kodinar but Solanki won. In 2008, Jethwa began seeking information regarding illegal mining through RTIs, and was brutally attacked and had to be hospitalised for three months with serious injuries.
Following the attack, Jethwa, his wife and two children left Khamba and shifted to Ahmedabad. In 2010, he filed a PIL on the basis of evidence he sought through RTIs and named Dinu Solanki in it.
“It had been a couple of months after he (Amit Jethwa) had filed the PIL. He visited my office in the high court premises and had said that he was being followed for days and receiving threats from Solanki. Twenty-four hours later, he was shot from point blank range in front of the high court. He was declared dead on the spot. The contract killer who shot him was identified as Sailesh Pandya,” said Anand Yagnik, the advocate who fought the case on behalf of Bhikhabhai Jethwa.
Following Amit Jethwa’s death, the police did not wait for the family to file an FIR, instead they filed one of their own stating that “someone” had killed Jethwa.
Initially the murder case was investigated by the Ahmedabad Detection Crime Branch (DCB) which charge sheeted six people – Shiva Solanki, nephew of Dinu Solanki; Sailesh Pandya; Bahadursinh Vader; Panchan G Desai; Sanjay Chauhan and Udaiji Thakore. Th DCB gave a clean chit to Dinu Solanki after which Bhikhabhai moved to the High Court. The HC ordered a CBI investigation and Solanki was arrested from Delhi and charge sheeted in the case in 2013.
Subsequently, CBI accused Solanki as the prime accused and conspirator and both probes – one by DCB and CBI were clubbed together. Thereby, CBI was asked to conduct the trial of the case.
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As the trial began, 105 out of 195 witnesses turned hostile. Bhikhabhai moved to HC seeking fresh trial on ground that majority of witnesses had turned hostile and complained of receiving threats. The HC ordered a fresh trial and also ordered to change the special judge who was residing over the case.
In response, Dinu Solanki moved to the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat HC’s order of retrial. On October 30, 2017, the apex court cancelled Solanki’s bail, ordering him to surrender immediately and also allowed re-examination of 26 other witnesses.
“The bail of the accused shall remain cancelled until the examination of the eight key witnesses in the case. The trial shall be held on a day-to-day basis and accused (Solanki) will not enter Gujarat unless required in the case,” the bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan held.
However, despite the SC order, Solanki did not surrender immediately nor did he stay out of Gujarat. He attended and organised political programmes of the BJP in Kodinar, ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls in 2017 and brazenly posted his whereabouts on social media. He was forced to leave Gujarat only after about ten days, when Bhikhabhai moved an affidavit requesting immediate arrest of Solanki as he had failed to comply with the SC order.
“The judgement is a victory for all of us. The judiciary and the Constitution restore our faith in the judicial system that goons can be defeated after all,” said Bhikhabhai standing outside the court’s premises after the judgement.