The Gujarat High Court has suspended the life sentence of Shiva Solanki, an accused in the 2010 murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa, and granted him bail pending hearing of his appeal against his conviction by a CBI court.
The division bench of Justices S H Vora and Mauna Bhatt on Monday suspended the sentence of Shiva Solanki, the nephew of former BJP MP Dinu Solanki, one of the seven accused given life imprisonment for gunning down Jethwa outside the High Court premises on July 20, 2010.
The court ordered Shiva Solanki to be released on bail on condition that he does not leave Gujarat pending hearing of appeal, surrender his passport, mark his presence in the police station every month and attend the hearing of his appeal in the court.
The court in its order observed that prima facie, Solanki's conviction by the 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".
"When circumstances against the applicant are taken cumulatively, we do not find any chain of evidence having been established leading to the conclusion that in all possibility, the crime was committed by the applicant," it said.
The court said that the "false implication" of the applicant cannot be ruled out.
The High Court had in September 2021 suspended the sentence of the main accused and former BJP MP Dinu Solanki pending his appeal against conviction by the CBI court on June 7, 2019. The Supreme Court had later confirmed the order of bail.
Shiva Solanki had sought suspension of sentence and release on bail pending hearing and final disposal of criminal appeal in the High Court.
Shiva Solanki and six others were sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 15 lakh in a case of murder and criminal conspiracy.
Jethwa was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on July 20, 2010 after he tried to expose illegal mining activities allegedly involving Dinu Solanki through RTI applications.
An FIR was lodged against two unknown assailants and the investigation was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which filed a chargesheet.
In September 2012, the High Court handed over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the judge convicted seven persons with life imprisonment on June 7, 2019.
-With PTI Input