Friday, June 2, 2023

Supreme Court directs Gujarat Government to file reply on Sanjiv Bhatt’s plea to submit more evidence in his support in custodial death case

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The Supreme Court has instructed the government of Gujarat to file its reply on a petition by sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for submitting additional evidence to support his appeal in the Gujarat High Court against his conviction in a 1990 custodial death case.

The appeal was filed by Bhatt in the High Court challenging his conviction in the custodial death case of Prabhudas Vaishnani, who the Jamnagar police had caught hold after a communal riot.

A bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar said no formal notice is required to be issued in the matter as senior advocate Maninder Singh has already appeared for the state.

The Supreme Court has directed the Gujarat government to file its reply by April 11, while posting the matter for hearing on April 18.

Sanjiv Bhatt was represented by Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who said that the Gujarat government has not filed its reply despite seeking several adjournments.

In 2019, a Sessions court in Jamnagar, Gujarat had convicted the ex-IPS officer in connection with a 1990 custodial death case, while sentencing him to life imprisonment.

The incident roots back to the tenure of Sanjiv Bhatt as the Assistant Superintendent of Police, Jamnagar, where he had taken over 100 persons into his custody for a riot incident in the area.

One of the rioters, who was in police custody for nine days, died of renal failure after being released on bail.

A criminal complaint was registered against Bhatt and other officers for the custodial death, and cognisance was taken by a Magistrate in 1995.

The former IPS officer was penalised with Indian Penal Code Sections of murder, causing grievous hurt, criminal intimidation and abetment.

In 2011, Justice Shah, who was then a High Court judge, had refused to set aside a trial court ruling that had rejected an application for deferment of framing of charges in the case.

Bhatt demanded in his letter to the Supreme Court recusal of Justice Shah on the grounds that the ends of justice will not meet if the present Special Leave Petition was being heard by the same judge.

Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who appeared for Bhatt, had in January apprised the Supreme Court that the issue was about apprehension of bias, to which the Bench replied that a reasonable nexus has to be proved.

It is said that Bhatt is a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, who before his dismissal, had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, alleging that the Modi-led Gujarat government was complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In 2015, Sanjiv Bhatt was dismissed from service on the grounds of unauthorised absence from service.

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