Section 120B of IPC has been slapped also on 2 Gujarat Congress leaders

Two days after the suspended Gujarat cadre IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, was released on bail, the police added the charge of “conspiracy” against him and others in the case arising out of constable K. D. Panth's complaint on which he was arrested, in the first place, on September 30.

The addition of Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code may create fresh problems to not only Mr. Bhatt but also PCC chief Arjun Modhvadia and State Congress legal cell vice-president Vijay Kanara, who drafted Mr. Panth's affidavit, filed before the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae, in support of the IPS officer's claim that he was present at a crucial February 27, 2002 meeting. It was at that meeting, held after the Godhra train carnage, that Chief Minister Narendra Modi allegedly “directed” the police to go soft on Hindu rioters.

While the police were tight-lipped on addition of the conspiracy charge in the Bhatt case, the matter came to light in an anticipatory bail application filed in the sessions court by Mr. Kanara. His advocate, B. M. Mangukiya, said the Section 120(B) charge was added even after Mr. Kanara withdrew the petition before the Gujarat High Court on Monday on an assurance from the government that he would not be arrested and that due notice would be given whenever he was called for questioning.

The sessions court scheduled the hearing on his anticipatory bail for Thursday, following yet another assurance by the public prosecutor that no immediate action would be taken against Mr. Kanara.

Mr. Panth, in his complaint of “threat and intimidation” against Mr. Bhatt, also named Mr. Modhvadia and Mr. Kanara as being among those who “influenced” him to file the “false affidavit” before the amicus curiae, claiming that the IPS officer had made him talk to the State Congress president, who told him that the Modi government would not survive for long and that the Centre had finalised plans to overthrow it.

Even during the hearing on Mr. Bhatt's bail application, special public prosecutor S. V. Raju had hinted at a “conspiracy” and submitted details of Mr. Modhvadia's phone calls to Mr. Kanara. But judge V. K. Vyas did not take cognisance of it, pointing out that mere call details would not establish what transpired during the phone talk.

“Politically motivated”

Mr. Modhvadia, in an open letter to Mr. Modi, also pointed out that as PCC president, he might have spoken to his legal cell vice-president a number of times, but linking the conversation with a “conspiracy” and Mr. Panth's complaint was a “politically motivated” move.

The Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association, in a resolution, condemned the alleged police harassment of Mr. Kanara, even as lawyers in various Jamnagar courts stayed away from work in protest against the threatened police action against their colleagues in Ahmedabad.

Besides the new charge of conspiracy, the 21-year-old case of alleged “custodial death” of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist at Jamjodhpur when Mr. Bhatt was posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar district, is set to return to haunt him.