A special CBI court on Thursday sentenced former BJP MP Dinu Bogha Solanki and six others to life imprisonment for killing RTI activist Amit Jethwa in 2010 after he tried to expose illegal mining activities in the Gir forest region.
Special CBI Judge K M Dave also imposed a fine of Rs 15 lakh each on Bogha Solanki and his nephew, also an accused in the case.
While pronouncing the verdict on Thursday, the court held Solanki, who was the Junagadh MP from 2009 to 2014, and his nephew, Shiva Solanki, guilty of murder and conspiracy. The others who were convicted in the case are Shailesh Pandya, Bahadursinh Vadher, Panchan G Desai, Sanjay Chauhan, and Udaji Thakore.
The court convicted all the seven accused of murder last Saturday. Amit Jethwa, a lawyer, was shot dead for exposing through RTI applications the illegal mining in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in which Solanki was allegedly involved.
In 2010, Jethwa filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the illegal mining in and around the Gir sanctuary, the only abode of Asiatic lions. Solanki and his nephew were made respondents to the PIL, and Jethwa produced several documents showing their involvement in illegal mining.
While the PIL was being heard, Jethwa was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court here on July 20, 2010. Initially, Ahmedabad police's crime branch probed the case and gave a clean chit to Dinu Solanki.
Dissatisfied with the investigation, the high court handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2013. The CBI filed a charge sheet against Solanki and six others in November 2013.
Charges of murder and criminal conspiracy were framed against them in May 2016. The court examined 196 witnesses during the first trial and as many as 105 of them turned hostile after being threatened by the accused.
The slain RTI activist's father, Bhikhabhai Jethwa, then moved the high court seeking a retrial. The high court ordered a fresh trial in 2017.
"Our judiciary takes time but it has finally delivered justice to our family... even a criminal like Solanki is brought to justice," Bhikhabhai Jethwa said after the court's verdict.