In a significant development, the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal filed by former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt against his murder conviction and life sentence. The conviction stems from a 1990 custodial torture case during Bhatt’s tenure as the additional superintendent of police in Jamnagar. The verdict was handed down by a sessions court in 2019, and Bhatt has been in jail since 2018.
A division bench comprising Justices AJ Shastri and Sandeep Bhatt examined the trial court’s reasoning and affirmed the conviction of Sanjiv Bhatt and former police constable Pravinsingh Zala under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with punishment for murder. Both Bhatt and Zala had appealed against the Jamnagar court’s verdict.
The case revolved around the alleged custodial torture of more than a hundred individuals detained by Bhatt in connection with communal riots that erupted in Jamnagar district in 1990. The riots were triggered by a Bharat bandh called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on October 30, 1990. The detainees were reportedly prevented from drinking water, leading to the renal failure and death of Prabhudas Vaishnani.
The Bharat bandh was called to protest the arrest of the BJP National President LK Advani, who was leading a rath yatra from Gujarat’s Somnath to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh at the time.
Sanjiv Bhatt, known for his controversial allegations against political figures, had previously accused then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of encouraging the 2002 riots that claimed the lives of around 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. Bhatt claimed to have attended a meeting at Modi’s residence where the chief minister allegedly instructed officers to “allow Hindus to vent their anger.”
Following these allegations in April 2011, Bhatt was suspended and later dismissed in 2015, citing various reasons such as indiscipline, unauthorized absence from duty, and defiance of superior officers’ orders.
In a twist of fate, Bhatt found himself in legal trouble again in July 2022, when he was arrested by a Special Investigation Team for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in connection with a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
With the Gujarat High Court’s recent decision, the legal troubles for Sanjiv Bhatt seem to have intensified, marking another chapter in the controversial ex-police officer’s tumultuous career.
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