The Gujarat High Court today reprimanded the CBI over the issue of a large number of witnesses in the murder case of RTI activist Amit Jethwa turning hostile. As many as 105 of the 195 witnesses in the case, in which former BJP MP Dinu Bhoga Solanki is an accused, turned hostile before a special court which is hearing the matter. "You knew and told the Supreme Court about witnesses turning hostile, but did not inquire with them (the witnesses). You can't compel witnesses to depose but you can conduct an inquiry as to why they have turned hostile," Justice J B Pardiwala told CBI counsel R C Kodekar. The court made the observation after the CBI submitted before it that the Supreme Court, which had granted bail to Solanki, had been informed about witnesses turning hostile. The central agency defended itself, saying the petitioner in the case -- the victim's father Bhikhabhai -- has no complaints with regard to the trial going on before the special CBI court. Kodekar said the CBI had written to the Gujarat DGP regarding the development. The case will be further heard on April 26. The CBI, which investigated the case, had earlier told the HC that 105 of the total 195 witnesses in the case turned hostile before the special court and five others complained of intimidation. Besides Solanki, there are six other accused in the case and all of them are currently out on bail. The HC is hearing a petition filed by Jethwa's father who said witnesses turned hostile because of the threats given by Solanki and his cousin Shiva (who is also an accused). After the petition was filed, the HC stayed hearing in the special court. Bhikhabhai has alleged neither Gujarat Police nor CBI are serious about ensuring protection to witnesses. The RTI activist was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court premises on July 20, 2010.
It is suspected that Jethwa was targeted for exposing illegal mining activities through numerous RTI applications. He had filed a PIL in the HC against illegal mining in the Gir forest region. The HC had asked the CBI to re-investigate the murder case after Jethwa's father expressed dissatisfaction over the probe carried out by the Gujarat police. In May last year, charges were framed in the special court against Solanki and six others. All have been charged under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy), among others.
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