The Dahod distict police has filed the chargesheet in a local court against six of the eight accused in the alleged murder of BJP leader Hiren Patel from Jhalod.
The first chargesheet in the case registered at the Jhalod police station was filed on January 8, with the investigation going on to confiscate the light utility vehicle (LUV) that was allegedly used to stage the hit and run as part of the September 27 contract killing of Patel, police said.
In its first chargesheet, Jhalod police charged six of the eight arrested accused for culpable homicide amounting to murder and criminal conspiracy. The accused include 2002 Sabarmati train burning incident convinct Irfan Pada, Jhalod resident Ajay Kalal, Ujjain residents Sajjansinh Chauhan and Mohammed Samir Mujawar, Balram Bhuvanji and Salim Baju Shaikh alias Kala.
Two other accused, who were arrested later and named as the key conspirators for commissioning the contract, are Amit Katara, son of former Dahod MP, and then BJP leader Babu Katara and his aide, Imran Gudala, both arrested in the last week of December. Police will book Gudala and Katara in a separate additional chargesheet later. A ninth accused, Irfan Basti of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh is still at large.
The chargesheet, filed under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (culpable homicide amounting to murder), 303 (Punishment for murder by life-convict) and 120B (Criminal Conspiracy), describes the role played by all the eight accused and establishes the link between the six chargesheeted accused with the others.
Pada, who was on the run from Vadodara Central Jail after getting a parole as a life convict in the Sabarmati train carnage, has been booked under section 303, which lays down provisions in case of life convicts committing a murder. While Pada is said to have planned the execution of Patel and gathered the accomplices after receiving the “kill money” from Kalal in September 2020, Kalal is said to have accepted the contract kill money from Gudala, who acted as an intermediary for Katara.
Bhuvanji has been described as the owner of a roadside dhaba in Mahidpur in Madhya Pradesh, where the six chargesheeted accused met the day before the murder and planned the hit and run while Salim Kala arranged for the “pilot” vehicle for the LUV and to recce the spot where they planned the hit and run.
A senior official said, “The motive was political rivalry of several years. The deceased was earlier attacked in 2008 by members of the same family for allegedly casting a vote in the election of a committee against their candidate. This time, too, the high stakes election of president and vice-president for the second phase of the five-year term of the Jhalod Municipality became a matter of contention as the accused blamed Patel for poaching their party members to turn the scales in favour of the BJP by forcing cross-voting from three Congress members.”
Katara’s wife Kinjal was the outgoing president of the municipality for the first term of two-and-a-half years.
Investigating officer and Dahod Deputy Superintendent of Police Paresh Solanki told The Indian Express, “We have 90 days to investigate the case and search for the LUV that was used to actually bump off the victim since both Gudala and Katara were booked in end of December 2020. Our investigation has been able to establish that Rs 4 lakh kill money belonged to Katara and he asked his aide Gudala to find the killers. Gudala then contacted Kalal, who befriended Pada during his stay in the Vadodara jail in a Prohibition case. Pada gathered the other contractor killers from Madhya Pradesh.”
While Gudala was nabbed by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) from Haryana on December 27, after two months of being on the run, Katara was nabbed three days later from Chitrodiya in Jhalod taluka of Dahod district.
The accused allegedly rammed a Light Utility Vehicle (LUV) into Patel during his morning walk on September 27, causing fatal injuries. Patel succumbed on his way to a Vadodara hospital.