Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt raises safety concerns amidst conviction

Bhatt requested the Gujarat High Court to prevent his transfer to a central jail, but the state government opposed this, questioning the basis of his safety concerns

Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was recently convicted in the 1996 drug planting case by Gujarat’s Palanpur court (photo: National Herald archives)
Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was recently convicted in the 1996 drug planting case by Gujarat’s Palanpur court (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

After the recent conviction of former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in the 1996 drug planting case by Gujarat’s Palanpur court, he has written to Gujarat high court to direct the state government and jail authorities to not to shift him to a central jail, citing threats from dreaded criminals and terrorists that he had jailed during service.

However, the state has opposed the request, questioning which terrorist had Bhatt apprehended when he had not served in any executive position for 20-25 years.

The petition had been filed on 28 March, which was when the Palanpur district court sentenced him to 20 years in jail in the NDPS case and ordered that he be shifted to the custody of the Jamnagar district court, which in June 2019 had sentenced him to life imprisonment in a 1990 custodial death case.

During a hearing on Wednesday, 3 April Bhatt's counsel, Kruti Shah, submitted that the former IPS officer's safety is the main concern.

Additional advocate general Mitesh Amin argued that any prisoner convicted to a life term of 20 years is required to be placed in a central jail because of the prison rules. He countered Bhatt's argument that his safety might be compromised in a central jail.

“On what basis will this court decide on his jail transfer? Merely because he was an IPS officer? He ceased to be in any executive post for the last 20-25 years. Where are those dreaded terrorists from whom there is any threat to him?” asked Amin.

When Bhatt’s lawyer kept insisting about his safety, the government’s lawyer informed the court that the government was duty-bound to keep Bhatt safe and secure. Justice HD Suthar posted the matter for hearing on 18 April.

The court had sentenced the former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to 20 years in jail in a 1996 drug planting case. According to the judgment, originally in Gujarati, the allegations in this case date back to the time when Bhatt was serving as the Banaskantha superintendent of police.

He has now been held guilty of falsely implicating Sumer Singh Rajpurohit, a Rajasthan-based lawyer, by planting commercial quantities of opium in a hotel room. Rajpurohit was arrested and he alleged that a property occupied by him was vacated under the pressure of his implication in this case.

The court has now convicted Bhatt under various provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, and the Indian Penal Code.

In January, the Gujarat High Court had upheld the life sentence and murder conviction of Bhatt in a 1990 case of alleged custodial torture and death. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2019 by a Jamnagar sessions court in this case.

Additional sessions Judge J.N. Thakkar said Bhatt is serving the sentence for the offence under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code. “The sentence for that offence and the sentence imposed in the present judgment are ordered to be served by the accused consecutively, i.e. after the completion of the sentence for one offence, the sentence for the other offence is to be served,” the court observed.

Now, the trial court judge in the NDPS case against Bhatt has ordered that the 20-year sentence would run consecutively, after the earlier sentence in the custodial death case.

Bhatt's issues with the Gujarat state government began in 2011 when he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging that the then-chief minister Narendra Modi had ordered senior bureaucrats to go slow on rioters during a meeting at his residence on Feb 27, 2002, after the Godhra train burning. Bhatt has been facing charges of coercing his subordinate to falsely swear a statement proving his presence at Modi's residence.

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