The Gujarat High Court has directed the Jamnagar district court to dispose of within six weeks Sanjiv Bhatt's revision petition in a two decades-old case of alleged custodial death of a VHP activist, which occurred when the suspended IPS officer was Assistant District Superintendent of Police.
Thursday's order by Justice Anant Dave has come as a major relief to Mr. Bhatt as the Jamnagar court refused to entertain his revision petition on grounds of delay and thus paved the way for framing of charges against him.
Setting aside the district court's order, Justice Dave said the lower court had erred in its judgment and said the revision petition was maintainable. For, there was no void in filing the petition after the State government had withdrawn its own revision petition in the matter. The judge directed the district court to decide Mr. Bhatt's revision petition before proceeding further in the case.
In the 1990 case, one of the 32 persons, arrested in connection with a communal riot in Jam-Khambhaliya town and sent to judicial custody, died some five days after release. The brother of the deceased Prabhudas Vaishnani later filed a police complaint against Mr. Bhatt for alleged torture in custody, resulting in the death.
In 1996, the government filed a revision petition in defence of Mr. Bhatt and other accused, pointing out that the police action was “in the discharge of their duties” and they were not guilty of custodial death. But it suddenly decided to withdraw the petition, pending in the lower court, in July last, after the suspended IPS officer filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing Chief Minister Narendra Modi of involvement in the 2002 communal riots. Mr. Bhatt filed his own revision petition in the Jamnagar court the same day the government withdrew its plea.