A court in the Rajkot district’s Gondal town on Monday acquitted all the persons accused of murdering a 19-year-old Dalit in 2019, The Indian Express reported.

The man, Rajesh Sondarva, was allegedly clubbed to death as he had opposed bail for the persons accused of killing his father, Right to Information activist Nanji Sondarva.

The eight who have been acquitted include former Congress worker Mahendrasinh Jadeja, his son Divyraj, Ajaysinh Jadeja, his son Dhruvrajsinh, Yuvrajsinh and his brother Deependrasinh, Mali Jadeja and Bhanubha Gohil.

Mahendrasinh, Ajaysinh and Mali’s father Narendrasinh have also been named as accused persons in Nanji Sondarva’s murder.

In the case pertaining to the murder of Rajesh Sondarva, the eight accused had been booked for murder and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The prosecution had alleged that the accused persons stopped Rajesh and his friend Milan Parmar when they were on a bike near the Manekvada village. They had allegedly attacked Rajesh with sticks.

The police complaint was reportedly filed by Rajesh’s younger brother Ajay Sondarva.

The lawyers for the accused argued that the police should have treated the statement of Parmar as the complaint, rather than the one given by Ajay Sondarva, one of the defence lawyers, Piyush Shah, told The Indian Express.

The defence also reportedly highlighted discrepancies in the statements given by Ajay and Parmar. “We also underlined that the Sondarvas and Jadejas had ongoing disputes and therefore the former had framed the accused,” Shah said.

The murder of Rajesh Sondarva had attracted widespread condemnation in 2019. Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani had said at the time that the murder reinforced that Gujarat was “hell on earth for Dalits and Adivasis”.

“The [former chief minister] Vijay Rupani government’s indifferent and negligent attitude has only bolstered casteist elements and such criminals to fearlessly go about brutally attacking Dalits and Adivasis,” Mevani had said.