Interview

‘Fought despite knowing it was an unequal battle’

The services of Gujarat’s suspended officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who had taken on the then Narendra Modi administration on the 2002 riots, >was terminated from the Indian Police Service (IPS) by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India.

In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Bhatt said the government of Gujarat was determined to see him sacked after he filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court.

So did you expect your removal from the service?

I have come a full circle since joining the service in August, 1988 and being removed, also in the same month. It's not that I didn't expect this, but the way this entire charade was created is disgusting. First of all, my dismissal is based on an inquiry that has been ex parte from the beginning, so probably I will be the first IPS officer to have been removed from service based on an ex parte inquiry ordered by the people who cannot deal with officials who show some spine.

But why did you not participate in the inquiry process?

I was willing and I am still prepared to face any inquiry that is duly constituted and genuine. Here in this case, in which the Gujarat government ordering the inquiry based on flimsy and petty issues, never gave me the set of documents I needed to respond to the allegations and charges levelled against me. I had written to the authorities concerned to provide me papers which they refused, so I opted out of the process.

What were the charges and allegations against you?

Even I don't know the specific charges and allegations but to me those were petty issues like “unauthorised absence from the service, misuse of official vehicles and other facilities etc.” These issues cropped up after I first appeared before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was probing the cases of the 2002 riots. When I brought out their complicity in the ghastly riots, they launched a mission to malign my reputation and discredit my service record.

The termination order issued by the MHA noted that “Shri Bhatt was defiant and flagrantly broke the rules and was disregard to the discipline.”

So what the MHA expected me to do? Grovel before them? Did they expect me to beg with folded hands? An IPS officer is expected to be defiant and show some spine against such forces with devious designs. An IPS officer is not expected to facilitate the dirty deeds of those in power.

Do you regret after losing the battle?

Not at all. No regret for anything I did. I did not buckle under their pressure, I did not compromise anywhere in this entire episode. This was the battle of my choosing and I fought despite knowing that it was an absolutely unequal battle where I was destined to lose. But I fought for the principles and a cause.

What's your next course of action?

I want to take a break and think through before I decide anything. My daughter has got an admission [to a course] in Oxford. I will accompany her if I get the court nod to travel abroad. I am happy that my family has supported me throughout the fight. My son is in London and when he learnt about my dismissal, he sent a mail saying, “dad, I am proud to be your son.”

Will you challenge your dismissal since it's based on ex-parte inquiry?

I have a very strong case. If I challenge it in court, this order will not stand the scrutiny of the law but I have not taken any decision as yet. Look at the timing and sequence of the events: they issued my terminal order on August 13, 2015. The next day, the Gujarat government issued me a show-cause notice regarding a so called sex CD. If they dismissed me on August 13, 2015, what right the state had to issue me a notice on the purported CD? But it was meant to be an exercise in character assassination and malign me before my removal. Is this how a government acts in a democracy?

Secondly, the termination order came when the Supreme Court's hearing on my plea was scheduled on August 18, 2015 and then adjourned for three weeks. So it's evident they had to get rid of me before I could create more trouble for them.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 1:58:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/fought-despite-knowing-it-was-an-unequal-battle-sanjiv-bhatt/article7562435.ece

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