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Sanjiv Bhatt paying price for deposing on Modi role in Gujarat riots: Wife Shweta

Counterview Desk
Following the Jamnagar sessions court ordering life imprisonment to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for his alleged involvement in three decades old custodial death case, his wife Shweta Bhatt has said that he has been sentenced for a “for a crime he did not commit”, even as criticizing the Indian Police Service (IPS) Association, Gujarat, for not standing up for him.
Addressing the IPS association, she says, “Today one of your very own has been vindictively persecuted for being a true IPS officer. You didn’t stand by him, you didn’t protect him... He keeps fighting his battle against this vindictive government, the question is till what end are you prepared to remain as silent spectators?”
Referred to as Gujarat riots whistleblower, Bhatt, suggests his wife in a statement issued on the day the sessions court issued the order, had to pay the price for his deposition, in 2011, before the Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta Commission inquiring into the riots of 2002, where he “truthfully deposed regarding the role of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, other ministers and high-ranking officials in the 2002 riots of Gujarat.”

Text of the statement:

On October 24, 1990, major communal violence had broken out in different parts of Jamnagar city following the stoppage of LK Advani’s Rath Yatra in Bihar and his subsequent arrest. At that time Sanjiv Bhatt was posted as ASP Jamnagar Rural Division; wherein the district of Jamnagar was divided into three police divisions as Jamnagar City, Jamnagar Rural and Khambhalia.
Following the absence of DySP of Khambalia division who had proceeded on a sick leave, Sanjiv Bhatt was handed over with additional charge of the Khambalia Division on October 16, 1990. On October 24, 1990, the day of the mass break out of the communal riots in Jamnagar district, Pravin Gondia, IPS, proceeded on leave, following which Sanjiv Bhatt was asked to immediately take over the additional charges of Jamnagar City Division as well and to prepare, implement and supervise the bandobast in Jamnagar city.
Thus, on October 24, 1990, Sanjiv Bhatt was officially holding charge of entire Jamnagar District and was effectively dealing with the communal violence in the city.
A call for Bharat Bandh on October 30, 1990 was given by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). Large scale communal violence was expected across the country during the Bandh call of October 30, 1990 and all communally sensitive states of India were put on high alert.
Following the break-out of communal violence on the 30th in Jamnagar, the Collector, District Magistrate, Mamlatdar and the Executive Magistrate of Jamjodhpur announced for immediate imposition of curfew in the entire town. While the implementation of curfew was yet to begin, the entire town was in the grip of violent miscreants who were spreading terror by indulging in targeted violence including loot and arson against individuals, shops, establishments and properties belonging to the minority Muslim community of Jamjodhpur.
The first priority of Sanjiv Bhatt was to quell the riotous mobs and ensure strict enforcement of curfew to maintain peace, law and order. After handling various incidence of violence across the state, and having ensured enforcement of curfew, Sanjiv Bhatt reached the Jamjodhpur Police station at around 1:30 pm on October 30, 1990, wherein he was informed by CPI Bhanvad that a total of 133 people including the deceased Prabhudad Madhavji Vaishnani had been arrested by the local police led by PSI Jamjodhour between 9:30 am and 12:15 pm from 15 separate incidents of mass communal violence and arson across the city under the single offence C.R. No. 96/90 registered under sections 147, 148, 336, 337, 395, 436, 151, 327, 452, 454, 455 of the IPC, Section 3-6 of the TADA Act and Section 135(1) of the Bombay Police Act.
The deceased, Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani was arrested by a team consisting of KN Patel, CPI, Bhanvad, PSI Thakor and Mahashankar Joshi hours before Sanjiv Bhatt and his staff had reached the Jamjodhpur Police Station. While the 133 persons including the deceased and his brother were being arrested for arson and communal violence, Sanjiv Bhatt along with his staff were diligently dealing with riotous mobs in a different part of the city between 9:30 and 12:15 pm.
At no point in time were any of the arrested 133 persons including the deceased and his brother were in custody of Sanjiv Bhatt or any of his staff. None of the arrested 133 persons including the deceased and his brother were interrogated by Sanjiv Bhatt or any of his staff.
The complaint filed by Amrutlal Madjavji Vaishnani, an active member of the VHP/BJP, falsely accusing Sanjiv Bhatt, alleges that the arrested rioters were made to do sit-ups while in custody and were kept in an open chowk adjoining the police station. It is to be noted that on being presented before the nearest Magistrate by the local police on October 31, 1990, no complain of torture or any grievance was made by the deceased Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani or any of the other 133 arrested rioters.
The 133 rioters including Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani were sent to Judicial Custody on orders of the Magistrate and were to remain in jail till November 8, 1990. No complaint of any grievance or torture was made by any of the arrested 133 rioters including the deceased Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani. Even after the rioters including Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani were released on bail, there was no complaint of torture or any grievance.
On November 12, 1990, owing to ill health Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani was taken to the hospital in Jamnagar and then Rajkot. During his visit to the hospital as well, no complaint of any grievance was made against Sanjiv Bhatt. On November 18, 1990, while undergoing treatment in Rajkot, Vaishnani passed away. The hospital records as well as the forensic postmortem records of Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani have noted that there were no internal or external indication of any injury/torture or any grievance.
The complaint of custodial torture was made by Amrutlal Madjavji Vaishnani who also happens to be an active member of the VHP/BJP after the demise of Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani October 30, 1990, the day of the communal violence and the subsequent arrest of Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani, was only the 20th day of Sanjiv Bhatt’s posting in Jamnagar. He did not know any of the persons arrested, let alone have a grudge against anyone.
The complaint filed against Sanjiv Bhatt is a classic case of political vindictiveness, as the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Chimanbhai Patel was to face a vote of confidence in the Gujarat Assembly on November 1, 1990 and was very keen to ensure the support of Patel MLAs from the BJP as well as the INC (Indian National Congress).
Sanjiv Bhatt’s refusal to remove the sections of TADA from an offence where majority of the arrested persons were from the Patel community was seen as a personal affront to the then Home Minister Narhari Amin and the then Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, both of whom happened to belong to the Patel community.
Sanjiv Bhatt’s superiors in the Police Department as well as the Home department were fully aware that Bhatt was being falsely victimized for having performed his duty with utmost sincerity and diligence. Hence the Home department Government of Gujarat decided to accord Sanjiv Bhatt Legal Assistance vide Government of Gujarat Resolution No MIS/1090/6152-B dated January 9, 1991. The investigation conducted by CID declared that there was no evidence found against Sanjiv Bhatt, and the State Government refused to give sanction to prosecute.
The State Government protected the police officers and Bhatt in earnest up until 2011. In 2011, Sanjiv Bhatt was summoned as a commission-witness by the Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta Commission inquiring into the riots of 2002, where Bhatt truthfully deposed regarding the role of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, other ministers and high-ranking officials in the 2002 riots of Gujarat.
Following Bhatt’s deposition, there was an immediate withdrawal of the Revision Application filed by the State of Gujarat on the very same evening, and instructions were given the very next day to start the immediate prosecution of Sanjiv Bhatt and other officers who were being duly protected by the Government of Gujarat till that date.
Since the commencement of the vindictive persecution, out of the 300 witnesses only 32 witnesses were examined. The complainant who sat silent from 1990-2012, suddenly became vigilant and engaged senior lawyers before the courts including the Supreme Court. In a blatant miscarriage of justice, Sanjiv Bhatt was not permitted to call in any defense witness.
On having requested to summon Forensic Medicine Expert Dr Reddy, the court, in mockery, ordered at 12:30 pm for him to report in court by 3:00 pm on the very same day, despite knowing that he resides in Hyderabad and would require at least a day’s notice to make the commute. Thereby dismissing the request to examine a key defense witness. Moreover, the order to complete the trial was conducted ex-parte, without the knowledge and in absence of Bhatt’s lawyers.
Sanjiv Bhatt today was convicted for a crime he did not commit and under Section 302 of the IPC was given life imprisonment for being an upright officer and doing his duties diligently, irrespective of political pressure.
It is strange that how a death which occurred after 18 days of being out of custody; without any indications of internal or external trauma or injury, a death which was examined and reported by the forensic medicine experts to have no indication of torture or grievance, was declared to be a homicidal death.
There cannot be a more blatant example of vindictive persecution of totally innocent officers including Sanjiv Bhatt and his staff who had performed their duties in an outstanding and exemplary manner during the most difficult phase of the communal rioting.
We shall be examining the order minutely once we receive it and we shall challenge it in the appropriate forum. Justice has not only been denied, but an innocent man has been persecuted for doing his duty with diligence.

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