The Gujarat High Court has suspended the life sentence of Shiva Solanki, nephew of former BJP MP Dinu Solanki, in the 2010 murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa, and granted him bail pending hearing on his appeal.
A division bench of Justices S H Vora and Mauna Bhatt on Monday also granted Shiva Solanki bail while terming his conviction as prima facies erroneous.
Shiva Solanki, one of the seven accused sentenced to life imprisonment by a special CBI court, has filed an appeal against the conviction before the high court. His uncle Dinu Solanki too has been convicted in the case and is out on bail.
Jethwa was shot dead outside the High Court premises here on July 20, 2010.
While ordering Shiva Solanki's release on bail, the HC barred him from leaving Gujarat and asked him to surrender his passport, mark his presence at the concerned police station every month, and attend the hearing of his appeal in the high court.
Prima facie (on the face of it) his conviction seemed to be "erroneous because there is a breach of all principles settled by the Hon'ble Apex Court about the circumstantial evidence and requirement for conviction", the bench said.
"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," the HC added.
"False implication" of the applicant in the case cannot be ruled out, the court further said.
The High Court had in September 2021 suspended the sentence of the main accused Dinu Solanki pending his appeal against conviction by the CBI court on June 7, 2019. The Supreme Court later upheld the HC order.
Before his murder, Jethwa had tried to expose illegal mining activities in which Dinu Solanki was allegedly involved by seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The state police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had earlier filed a charge sheet, but in September 2012 the High Court handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).