Suspended Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt on Monday walked out of the Sabarmati central jail to an enthusiastic welcome after being granted bail by the Ahmedabad sessions court.
Judge V.K. Vyas granted the bail on condition that Mr. Bhatt would co-operate with the investigating agencies and make himself available whenever called by the police.
Mr. Bhatt was arrested on September 30 on a complaint filed in June at the Ghatlodiya Police Station here by K.D. Panth, a constable attached to the Meghaninagar Police Station.
The complainant alleged that Mr. Bhatt “threatened and forced” him to sign a false affidavit before the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae in support of the IPS officer's claim that he was present at a meeting of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi on February 27, 2002, in which Mr. Modi reportedly “directed” the police to “allow Hindus to vent their anger on Muslims” in the wake of the Godhra train carnage.
The State government opposed Mr. Bhatt's bail plea and even appointed senior advocate S.V. Raju as Special Public Prosecutor to fight the case.
Mr. Bhatt's release was hailed by human rights activists, social organisations and a number of voluntary organisations. They have been holding rallies and staging demonstrations in front of his residence and other parts of the city and the State ever since his arrest to express their solidarity with his wife Shweta Bhatt, two children and other family members.
Walking out of the jail, Mr. Bhatt told journalists that it was only the “beginning” of a big fight ahead. He was glad that the “rule of law” had prevailed in the State. He described his release on bail as a victory of the victims of the 2002 communal riots.
Mr. Bhatt described his stay in the jail as “sabbatical.” He would continue to fight for the “cause which is bigger than me.” He declined to comment on alleged police misbehaviour with him when he was kept in the Crime Branch police lock-up before the court sent him to jail, on which his wife had dashed out a letter to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. “I will speak about it only at an appropriate time and on appropriate forum,” he said.
Mr. Bhatt said he was aware that the Modi government would not allow him to live freely. “Let them do their job and let me do mine. I am not really bothered about what the government will do next. I do not fear them or have any apprehension. I will do my work and they will do theirs. I am not going to leave them and they would also not leave me.”
He was thankful to all those who stood by him and his family during the difficult days, and particularly his IPS colleagues and the IPS officers' Association members who visited his house to express their solidarity with his wife when he was in jail. “I have come out stronger and am ready to continue my fight.”
Mr Bhatt said he would like an agency outside Gujarat to investigate Mr. Panth's complaint against him. “If the case of Mr. Panth is investigated properly, the truth about how the State was subverting the entire machinery to try [to] coerce witnesses will come out.”
He alleged that the search in his house was aimed at destroying important evidence against Mr. Modi and the State government. He also alleged that a theft in his mother's house last year was also “organised” for the same purpose.
After giving Mr. Bhatt a rousing reception, his wife said she felt a “relieved and happy person.” Her faith in the judicial system was further strengthened after the court order, she noted, adding that she always had the confidence that ultimately the “truth will prevail.”
While Pradesh Congress Committee president Arjun Modhvadia also said “truth has ultimately prevailed,” official spokesman of the government and Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas claimed that the Modi government had “nothing to do” with Mr. Bhatt's case, which started from a “private complaint of an individual.”
He said the government did only what the prosecution was required to do and acceptance of his bail application should not be viewed as the government's defeat.