Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt will be filing for bail in the 30-year-old case in the Supreme Court next week. He has been in jail since September 14, 2018. Bhatt, who took on then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots, was given the life sentence in June by a sessions court in Jamnagar.
“Supreme Court is our only hope. Where else do we go? Sanjiv has been in jail without a bail for 14 months. We have to go to the Supreme Court,” underscored Shweta Bhatt, the wife of Sanjiv Bhatt.
On October 8, 2019, the Gujarat High Court rejected the plea of former state police chief Sanjiv Bhatt for suspension of his sentence because he has “scant respect for the courts” and “scant regard for the truth”.
Justice Bela Trivedi, who had passed the order against Bhatt’s plea on September 25 noted that with Bhatt convicted for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, he no longer had the initial presumption of innocence available to him.
The case pertains to the death of a man named Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani who died on November 11, 1990, allegedly due to torture in police custody. Vaishnani was among more than 100 persons detained after communal riots engulfed the Jamjodhpur village ahead of BJP leader LK Advani's infamous rath yatra.
The port town of Jamnagar was Bhatt’s first posting and he took charge as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) on October 10, 1990. He had gone on the field to quell a communal riot.
He was suspended in 2011 on charges of remaining absent from duty without permission and misuse of official vehicles and later sacked in August 2015.
The Supreme Court had stayed proceedings against Bhatt and others in 2000. However, the case was revived after 20 years (after 1998) of the petition and 22 years of the incident itself calling for an investigation of the petition itself.
In the custodial death case of Jamnagar, the state CID Crime branch of Gujarat police asked to inquire, had found no evidence against Bhatt who continued to serve the police in various senior positions.
Bhatt is known for filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court against the then Gujarat Chief Minister 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 cops to let Hindus vent out their anger against the Muslims.
However, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the apex court concluded that Bhatt did not attend the meeting and dismissed his allegations.