Sanjiv Bhatt, a former IPS officer from Gujarat cadre, who had accused Narendra Modi for his role in Gujrat riots in 2002 has been sent for life imprisonment by Jamnagar sessions court in a 30-year-old custodial death case.
The custodial death case dates back to 1990 when Sanjiv Bhatt was an Additional Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar, Gujarat. Bhatt and his team arrested 150 people for rioting during Rath yatra in Jamnagar. One of the detainees was PrabhuDas Madhavji Vaishnani. 10 days after his release, he was hospitalised and he died of renal failure. His brother accused that Prabhu Das was tortured in custody and filed an FIR against Sanjiv Bhatt and six other policemen.
Gujarat high court had a stay order on the trial until 2011 after which the trial was started. Presently, Bhatt is already in custody in a 20-year-old narcotics case. Last week the Supreme Court refused to hear Bhatt’s plea seeking examination of 11 additional witnesses in the case, which he had said was crucial for coming to a just and fair decision in the case.
Background of Sanjiv Bhatt
From December 1999 to September 2002, he worked as 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 Chief Minister 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. In 2003, he was posted as superintendent of Sabarmati central jail.
Is Sanjiv Bhatt being targeted?
After the 2002 riots, a group of social activists had formed the Concerned Citizens Tribunal to analyze the riots. Gujarat’s home minister Haren Pandya allegedly told this tribunal that Modi had organised a meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence on 27 February 2002, after the Godhra train burning, in which over 50 Hindu pilgrims died. According to Pandya, in this meeting, Modi had asked the police officials not to come in the way of “the Hindu backlash”. Hiren Pandya was murdered in 2002. In 2011, Sanjiv Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court of India, making similar allegations claiming that he was also present at that meeting where Narendra Modi made that statement.
It is noteworthy that the Gujarat government had originally appealed the court to drop charges against Bhatt and other policemen in the 1990 custodial death case. However, after Bhatt’s affidavit against Modi, the Government withdrew its application, and the court initiated criminal proceedings against the policemen. In 2015, Bhatt was removed from the police service, on the ground of “unauthorised absence”.