“I didn't know contents of prepared affidavit”
The case of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who recently created a flutter by accusing Chief Minister Narendra Modi of having made “anti-minority” statements on the eve of the 2002 communal riots, has taken another curious turn, with a former colleague filing a police complaint that he was forced to file a false affidavit.
Constable Karansinh Panth, who was an assistant in the State Intelligence Bureau, of which Mr. Bhatt was Deputy Commissioner during the communal riots, has filed the complaint against Mr. Bhatt at the Ghatlodiya station.
Mr. Panth was among the persons named by Mr. Bhatt, in his April affidavit before the Supreme Court, as those who would be ready to vouch for his presence at the crucial meeting convened by the Chief Minister at his residence on the night of February 27, 2002, in which Mr. Modi was alleged to have “directed” the top police officials to “allow Hindus to vent their anger” [following the Godhra incidents].
In his complaint, Mr. Panth, however, alleged that Mr. Bhatt forced him to sign on the dotted lines of a “prepared affidavit,” the contents of which he did not know but was told that it was about the IPS officer attending the February 27 meeting and about he himself being present with Mr. Bhatt to assist him.
According to Ahmedabad Police Commissioner Sudhir Sinha, an investigation has been launched against Mr. Bhatt following Mr Panth's complaint of force and intimidation to file an affidavit. He said Mr. Panth filed another statement claiming that the contents of the previous affidavit were “false and fabricated”.
Mr. Panth alleged that he was called by Mr. Bhatt on June 16 and asked to accompany him to meet the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae, who was due to visit Gujarat the next day. He claimed that Mr. Bhatt took him to the office of a notary in a building opposite the Gujarat High Court and forced him to sign the “prepared affidavit” for being given to the amicus curiae.
(The Supreme Court earlier handed over Mr. Bhatt's affidavit that he had personal knowledge of Mr. Modi's “anti-minority utterances” to the amicus curiae to personally check the veracity of his claim.)
Mr. Panth also named State Congress president Arjun Modhvadia who, he alleged, advised him to “sign on the dotted lines,” as suggested by Mr. Bhatt. Mr. Panth claimed that on the way to Mr. Modhvadia's residence, Mr. Bhatt told him that he need not worry much as the BJP government would not survive for long and that the Centre had already decided to “nail Mr. Modi soon.”
Mr. Modhvadia, however, flatly denied that he had met either Mr. Bhatt or Mr. Panth and said the allegation was “politically motivated”.
The then Director-General of Police, K. Chakravarthi, had refuted Mr. Bhatt's claim of his having been present at the February 27, 2002 meeting, and pleaded ignorance of any “directive” issued by Mr. Modi. Several other senior police officers had also expressed doubts about Mr. Bhatt's claim, pointing out that he, as Deputy Commissioner of the State Intelligence Bureau, was too junior an officer to be invited to a top-level meeting convened personally by the Chief Minister.
In his affidavit, Mr. Bhatt named several of his then colleagues in the IB, including Mr. Panth, his then driver and some police officials who he claimed would vouch for his presence at the Chief Minister's meeting. Later, during cross-examinations before the G.T.-Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial commission, probing the Godhra train carnage and post-Godhra riots, Mr. Bhatt reiterated that some of his erstwhile colleagues in the IB would support his claim.