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SC says 'no' to Sanjiv Bhatt plea seeking SIT probe

Sanjiv Bhatt. File photo.  

In a scathing judgment, the Supreme Court ripped apart sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's claims about a “collusion” between high State functionaries in the then Narendra Modi government and the Gujarat prosecution to save the 2002 Godhra riots accused, including present BJP president Amit Shah.

Instead, the 76-page judgment delivered on Monday focused its attack on Mr. Bhatt himself. It accused him of coming to the apex court with unclean hands.

It condemned his conduct, saying it did not befit a senior police officer. The apex court said Mr. Bhatt was in active touch with “top rival political leaders of Gujarat” in the background of the 2002 riots, and his actions were orchestrated by them to ambush the then Gujarat government.

“Petitioner (Mr. Bhatt) probably forgot he was senior IPS Officer,” a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra said.

It said he should have “kept away from all politics and activism of creating pressure”. It accused Mr. Bhatt of exploiting the media, and even more damagingly of pressurising the Supreme Court's three-judge bench monitoring the Godhra riots cases, the court-appointed Special Investigation Team investigating the cases and the amicus curiae.

“It is apparent that the petitioner (Mr. Bhatt) acted in deliberation and consultation with the leaders of rival political party, NGOs. Petitioner in spite of being a senior IPS officer was interacting with the top rival political leaders of Gujarat. He had exchanged e-mails with rival political party leaders and was being tutored by the lawyer of NGO and its activists. Ghost questions and answers were also prepared as to what the petitioner was required to speak before Justice Nanavati Commission,”

Justice Arun Mishra, who wrote the judgment for the bench, observed.

The verdict said Mr. Bhatt's claims about being present in a high-level meeting called by then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on February 27, 2002 after the Godhra train attack in which 59 persons were killed was not credible. It added that the SIT has already concluded he was not present at the meeting.

Mr. Bhatt had claimed that he was present in the meeting, held in the immediate aftermath of the Sabarmati Express burning incident, as an intelligence officer and heard Mr. Modi say some things.

But the court said this was a mere bluff. It pointed to how Mr. Bhatt kept quiet for nine whole years and then started exchanging e-mails with some others to ascertain and re-create their movements on that particular night in order to give the false impression that he was with them at the meeting on February 27, 2002.

The court dismissed his plea to make BJP president Amit Shah, then Gujarat Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta, then senior Gujarat officials G.C. Murmu and Pranav Badekha and journalist Gurumurthy Swaminathan answerable for the “unholy nexus between the prosecuting agency and the higher echelons of Gujarat government” in sensational cases ranging from Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case to the riots cases.

Mr. Bhatt had produced in court several e-mails he “uncovered” from Mr. Mehta's personal email account to allegedly prove how prosecution documents in these cases were leaked to the defence side. He claimed that sensitive court documents of the Gujarat State were sent to “outsiders” like Mr, Swaminathan.

The judgment said a “criminal nexus” cannot be proved merely because documents meant to be filed in court were first sent to outsiders for an opinion.

“In our opinion merely taking somebody’s opinion who is an outsider to litigation before filing the reply in the court would not undermine the administration of justice in any way and is not indicative of criminal conspiracy. There are knowledgeable incumbents who can always be consulted and their opinion obtained. There is nothing improper in it,” the court held.

The judgment further left Mr. Bhatt worse than he was before by directing that two FIRs registered against him in Gujarat be proceeded “in accordance with law”. Proceedings in both FIRs had been earlier stayed by the Supreme Court.

One of the two FIRs is based on Mr. Mehta's accusation that Mr. Bhatt hacked his e-mail account and leaked sensitive documents to put up the false claim of “collusion”. Refusing to set up a Special Investigation Team or transfer this FIR outside Gujarat, the court told Mr. Bhatt that “be you ever so high the law is above you”.

The second FIR is based on a complaint by K.D. Pant, a police constable, who accused Mr. Bhatt of forcing him to sign a "false" affidavit about the February 27, 2002 meeting.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 5:27:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-says-no-to-sanjiv-bhatt-plea-seeking-sit-probe/article7756767.ece

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