Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Supreme Court to hear Sanjiv Bhatt’s plea against conviction in 1990 custodial death case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear the petition filed by former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt seeking to adduce additional evidence in the criminal appeal filed by him in the Gujarat High Court challenging his conviction in the 1990 custodial death case.

The Bench headed by Justice M.R. Shah was apprised that a letter has been circulated seeking adjournment of the hearing in the matter. After this, the court listed the matter for hearing on February 27. 

The former IPS officer has moved the Supreme Court against the Gujarat High Court conducting regular hearing on his appeal challenging his conviction in a custodial death case, without awaiting the order of another petition filed by him in the Apex Court, seeking to adduce additional evidence in the case.

The case dates back to June 20, 2019, when the Sessions Court at Jamnagar in Gujarat had sentenced Bhatt to life imprisonment after finding him guilty for the custodial death of one Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani in 1990.

Bhatt had filed an application before the Trial Court to produce expert evidence of one doctor to support his argument that the death of Prabhudas was not due to the alleged sit ups he was made to do forcefully by the police, but the Trial Court rejected his application.

The former IPS officer then moved the Gujarat High Court, filing an application under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However, the application seeking to adduce the expert evidence was dismissed by the High Court in August, 2022.
He then filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court, which was currently pending. While so, the High Court listed Bhatt’s criminal appeal for regular hearing.

Although his lawyers sought adjournment, the High Court refused. The present SLP, contending that grave hardship will be caused if the High Court proceeds to hear the criminal appeal without awaiting the outcome of the earlier SLP filed in the Supreme Court for adducing additional evidence.

In April 2011, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 riots. He claimed to have attended a meeting convened by the then Chief Minister on February 27, 2002, the day of the communal riots, when instructions were allegedly given to the State Police to not take any action against the perpetrators of violence.

The Court-appointed SIT, however, gave a clean chit to Modi. In 2015, Bhatt was removed from the police service on the grounds of ‘unauthorised’ absence. In October 2015, the Apex Court dismissed Bhatt’s plea for constituting a special investigation team (SIT) for cases filed against him by Gujarat Government. The petition has been filed by Advocate Aljo Joseph.

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