Afternoon Voice

Sanjiv Bhatt’s arrest translated as BJP’s gimmick to win 2019

Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who testified in the Supreme Court against the then chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 communal riots case, was accused by the lawyers’ community in Rajasthan of falsely implicating their colleague in a narcotics case in 1996. Bhatt was later chargesheeted by the Rajasthan police’s crime branch before a trial court at Jodhpur on April 13, 2000. Bhatt’s appeal against the charges was pending before the Supreme Court, while the National Human Rights Commission found him guilty and ordered a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the victim lawyer, Sumer Singh Rajpurohit. The compensation was paid to Pali-based Rajpurohit by the Gujarat government in January 2011. It was alleged that Bhatt maliciously filed nearly 40 petitions in the High Courts of Rajasthan and Gujarat as well as before the apex court to delay action against him. Some of these petitions were filed by him (Bhatt), while others were moved by his co-accused. All petitions challenging the chargesheet have been quashed by the two High Courts, while the special appeal in the Supreme Court was pending. The probe was conducted by the CID as per the High Court order. Along with Bhatt, several other policemen are also being interrogated. In January this year, the court asked the CID (Crime) to investigate the FIR lodged in 1996 in which a lawyer from Rajasthan was booked allegedly for carrying 1.5 kg of narcotics. The case also involves a former judge of the Gujarat High Court Ramanlal Jain. According to the case details, the narcotics were recovered from a room of Lajwanti City Hotel in Palanpur and the police arrested lawyer Sumer Singh Rajpurohit, claiming that he was in the possession of narcotics. However, it emerged subsequently that Rajpurohit was allegedly abducted from his home in Pali, in Rajasthan, and the parcel of the drug was planted by the Banaskantha police.

Sanjiv Bhatt is known for his role in filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court of India against the then Chief Minister of the Government of Gujarat and now the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, concerning Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. He claimed to have attended a meeting, during which Modi allegedly asked top police officials to let Hindus vent out their anger against the Muslims. However, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India concluded that Bhatt did not attend this meeting, and dismissed his allegations. In 2015, Bhatt was removed from the police service, on the ground of “unauthorised absence”. Bhatt claimed that he was unable to report for work because he was required to attend various legal and investigatory hearings, including those of Nanavati-Mehta Commission (NMC) — originally known as the Nanavati-Shah Commission — which had been established by the government of Gujarat.

In October 2015, the Supreme Court quashed Bhatt’s plea for constituting a SIT for cases filed against him by the Gujarat Government. The court lifted a stay on his trial in these cases and asked him to face prosecution. The court observed that Bhatt was in an active touch with the leaders of the rival political party, was being tutored by NGOs, and was involved in politics and activism of creating pressure, even upon the three-judge bench of this court, amicus and many others.

Bhatt joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1988 and was allotted the Gujarat cadre. In 1990, as the Additional Superintendent of Police, he detained 150 people in order to control a riot in Jamnagar district. Prabhudas Vaishnani, one of the detainees, died of kidney failure a few days later, after being hospitalised. His brother lodged an FIR against Bhatt and six other policemen, alleging that he had been tortured in the police custody. Another man, Vijaysinh Bhatti, alleged that he had been beaten up by Bhatt. In 1996, as the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Banaskantha district, he was accused of falsely framing a Rajasthan-based lawyer in a narcotics case. The Bar association members have suspected that Bhatt got himself appointed the Gujarat government’s officer-in-charge for the special appeal petition pending in the Supreme Court. They pointed out that Bhatt is using the Gujarat government as a shield to save himself but is also misusing the public money to fight the crimes he committed. From December 1999 to September 2002, he worked as the Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence in the State Intelligence Bureau at Gandhinagar. He was responsible for looking after the state’s internal security, border and coastal security, and security of vital installations. He was also responsible for the former chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi’s security. During this period, the Godhra train burning and the subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots led to over a thousand deaths in February-March 2002. On September 9, 2002, Narendra Modi allegedly mocked the high Muslim birth rates during a speech at Bahucharaji. Though Modi denied making such remarks, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) sought a report from the State Government. However, the State Intelligence Bureau provided the NCM a copy of Modi’s speech, which had been recorded as a part of the routine procedure. Subsequently, the Modi government transferred the Bureau’s senior officials on ‘punishment postings’. The officers transferred included Sanjiv Bhatt, R. B. Sreekumar and E. Radhakrishnan. Bhatt was posted as principal of the State Reserve Police Training College.

In 2003, Bhatt was posted as the superintendent of Sabarmati central jail. There, he became very popular among the prisoners. He introduced desserts like gajar ka halwa on the jail menu. He also posted undertrials in Godhra train burning case on a jail committee. Two months after his appointment, he was transferred for being too friendly with the prisoners and bestowing favours upon them. On November 18, 2003, nearly half of the 4000 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest his transfer. Six convicts slashed their wrists in protest. By 2007, Bhatt’s colleagues from the 1988 batch had been promoted to the rank of Inspector-general of police (IGP). However, Bhatt had stayed at the SP level for a decade without any promotion, because of the pending criminal cases and departmental inquiries against him. Bhatt had filed a plea before the Supreme Court seeking a special investigative probe into two FIR filed against him by the Gujarat Police. On October 13, 2015, a bench dismissed Bhatt’s plea and ordered a speedy trial to be conducted in both the cases. By then, there was a threat to Bhatt’s life. His wife, Shweta, alleged that there was harassment during the period that he spent in jail under arrest in October 2011. Bhatt had been provided with two personal guards but considered this to be insufficient. In November 2011, he requested improved security, including the provision of a bulletproof car. The allegations and court saga continued for a long time, he earned a celebrity status on the social media. Finally, he has been once again detained and arrested ahead of the 2019 elections.

 

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on feedback@afternoonvoice.com)