A court in Gujarat on Thursday sentenced dismissed IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to life imprisonment in a custodial death case dating back to 1990 when he was the Additional Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar district.
Currently, Mr. Bhatt is in jail in a separate case related to drug planting and falsely implicating a lawyer in alleged possession of drug that goes back to 1996 when he was the Superintendent of Police in Banaskantha district.
Bhatt, who filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in 2011 against the role of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots in the State, has been a controversial figure and was suspended from the Indian Police Service in 2011 and sacked by the Ministry of Home Affairs in August 2015 for 'unauthorised absence' from service and other charges.
Constable also gets term
The Jamnagar-based court of sessions judge D.N. Vyas convicted Bhatt and constable Pravinsinh Zala under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder) and sentenced them to life in jail.
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The court also convicted five other policemen - sub-inspectors Dipak Shah and Sailesh Pandya, and constables Pravinsih Jadeja, Anopsinh Jethva and Keshubha Jadeja - and sentenced them to two years in prison.
On October 30, 1990, Bhatt detained around 150 people following a communal riot in Jamjodhpur town after a 'bandh' call against the halting of veteran BJP leader L K Advani's 'rath yatra' for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
One of those arrested, Prabhudas Vaishnani, died in a hospital after his release by the police. Subsequently, his brother lodged an FIR accusing Bhatt and six other police men of killing his sibling by torturing him while he was in police detention.
During the trial, prosecutor Tushar Gokani argued that Bhatt's role in the ‘torture’ of the victim was evident along with other policemen.
It may be noted that the case against Bhatt remained pending for years, as the State government did not give the nod for prosecuting him. It, however, gave the permission later.
On September 5, 2018, Bhatt was arrested in the drug case, which is under trial. He has been denied bail by the courts.
Affidavit in apex court
In 2011, Bhatt said in his affidavit to the Supreme Court that he was part of the meeting called byMr. Modi following the Godhra train attack case in which Hindu pilgrims were charred to death. He claimed that at the meeting, Mr. Modi asked the administration to go slow on and allow “the majority community to vent out their anger against the minority community.”
Subsequent to the Godhra incident, the State plunged into its worst communal riots, in which more than 1000 people were killed.
However, the court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan, rejected Bhatt’s allegations pertaining to complicity of Mr. Modi in the riots. It told the court that Bhatt’s testimony was not reliable, and in its final report, found no “prosecutable evidence” against Mr. Modi in connection with the riots.
In the 2012 Gujarat Assembly polls, Bhatt’s wife Shweta was the Congress candidate against Mr. Modi in the Maninagar seat.