Suspended IPS officer says document was provided in 2009

The R.K. Raghavan-led Special Investigation Team has asked suspended Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to produce “the original and or office copy” of the fax message he sent out to top officials of Gujarat on the night of February 27, 2002.

It has been Mr. Bhatt's claim — disputed by the SIT — that he was present at a meeting that night at Chief Minister Narendra Modi's residence where the latter allegedly said Hindus must be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims in the wake of the Godhra carnage. He has further claimed that he sent out the fax message at 11 p.m., soon after the meeting concluded that night.

Within hours of receiving the January 13, 2012 notice, Mr. Bhatt shot off an angry reply to Mr. Raghavan, saying he had provided a copy of the “vital evidence” to the SIT and the notice “reinforces the persistent doubts about the motive of the SIT, which had continued to intentionally disregard very important aspects of the case…”

In the reply, Mr. Bhatt repeated his demand that the SIT summon and examine those officers who manned the Control Room of the State Intelligence Bureau on February 27, 2002, as that would “establish very crucial facts about the meeting held at the residence of Chief Minister Mr. Modi on the late night of February 27, 2002.”

The (February 27, 2002) fax message, which refers to “the meeting held by the Hon'ble Chief Minister,” could be crucial because it indicates the possibility of Mr. Bhatt's presence at the controversial meeting. More so because there are references in it to the State government's decision “of bringing the dead bodies of kar sevaks to Ahmedabad by road” and of massive mobilisation by the cadres of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bajrang Dal.

“Shocking”

Mr. Bhatt provided a copy of the fax message to the SIT, first in 2009 and then in 2011. In his reply to the January 13 notice, he argued that the right course for the SIT would have been to get the original from the State Intelligence Bureau: “It is outrageously shocking that the Investigating Officer of the Special Investigation Team, Mr. Himanshu Shukla, is directing me to produce a document that has already been handed over to Mr. A.K. Malhotra of the SIT in 2009; and the I.O. Mr. Himanshu Shukla, himself in 2011. In the normal course of investigation, the Investigating Officer should have called for the “original and or office copy of the aforesaid fax message” from the State Intelligence Bureau, Gandhinagar, and the offices of the respective recipients of the said fax…”

Mr. Bhatt added, “This latest act of Mr. Himanshu Shukla only reinforces the persistent doubts about the motive and intent of the SIT which had continued to intentionally disregard very important aspects of the investigation… (It) has now also started indulging in suppression and/or disappearance of vital evidence with a view to screen powerful offenders, including Mr. Narendra Modi, from legal punishment…”

The Hindu has with it a list of police inspectors who manned the State Intelligence Bureau at various points on February 27, 2002 and the days that followed. These officers reported to Mr. Bhatt in the absence of the then IB Chief, G.C. Raigar, and are possibly in a position to testify on Mr. Bhatt's movement on February 27, 2002, including whether he attended the late night meeting at Mr. Modi's home. The details would additionally be available in the log books required to be maintained by the officers.

The names include among others: E.L. Christian, V.J. Solanki, M.K. Sharma and A.S. Kasiri. Mr. Sharma was the supervisory officer to whom police constable K.D. Panth reported. Mr. Panth, who initially supported Mr. Bhatt's claim that he was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting, later filed an FIR against Mr. Bhatt alleging that the latter had “coerced” him to file a false affidavit.