Chain Of Evidence Not Conclusive, Conviction Prima Facie Erroneous: Gujarat HC Suspends Life Sentence Of Former MP's Nephew In RTI Activist Murder Case

Update: 2023-02-07 12:32 GMT

The Gujarat High Court on Monday suspended the life sentence imposed by a CBI Court on Pratap @ Shiva Solanki, nephew of former BJP MP Dinu Solanki, in connection with RTI activist Amit Jethva murder case of 2010.

The court also released Shiva on conditional bail, pending disposal of criminal appeal before the High Court.

RTI Activist Amit Jethva who tried to expose illegal mining activities in the state through RTI applications was murdered outside the Gujarat High Court premises on July 20, 2010.

In 2019, the applicant and 6 other accused persons were convicted for the offences punishable under sections 302 and 120(B) of IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.15 lakhs by the CBI Court, Ahmedabad.

While allowing his application for suspension of sentence, a division bench of Justice S. H. Vora and Justice Mauna M. Bhatt observed that when circumstances against the applicant are taken cumulatively, no chain of evidence has been established leading to the conclusion that in all possibility, the crime was committed by the applicant. On the contrary, the deposition of prosecution witness as aforesaid leads to many other hypothesis than that of guilt of the accused.

The court further remarked:

Upon conjoint consideration of evidence, submissions and findings recorded by the learned CBI Court, this Court finds prima facie that the conviction recorded by the learned CBI Court is erroneous, because there is breach of all principles settled by the Hon’ble Apex Court with regard to the circumstantial evidence and requirement for conviction.

The Court also noted that Shiva was released on temporary bail on various occasions during the trial and there is no grievance ventilated by any of the parties as to misuse of the liberty. "As per the jail remarks submitted on 22.1.2023, the applicant has suffered sentence of 07 years 11 months and 14 days. Considering the fact that 923 appeals older than the present one are pending, it is not likely that the present appeal will be heard in near future, we deem it fit to consider the application for suspension of sentence principally, on the ground of parity,” it added.

In its order, the Court took into account the fact that in September 2021, the High Court suspended the Life-imprisonment sentence of Ex-BJP MP Dinu Bogha Solanki who was convicted by a special CBI court in 2019 along with Shiva Solanki. Thus the court granted bail to Shiva on ground of parity. It said,

Parity cannot be a sole ground for granting bail and if on scrutiny and examination of records in a given case, it transpires that the case of the present applicant is identically similar to the accused, who has already been granted bail, then it would be desirable that the applicant should also be enlarged on bail. We did not notice any material even remotely to say that the case of the present applicant and accused No.7 granted bail is distinguishable on facts.

The court has directed Shiva to furnish bail bond of Rs.50,000/- and surety of like amount to the satisfaction of Sessions Court. He has also been asked to stay in Gujarat and surrender his passport.

Lastly, considering the recent attack on one of the prosecution witnesses, the court has restrained Shiva from entering into the local limits of area where the witness resides, for a period of one year.

Case Title: Pratapbhai @ Shivbhai Hamirbhai Solanki v. State of Gujarat

Coram: Justice S. H. Vora and Justice Mauna M. Bhatt

Click Here to Read/Download Judgment


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