The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday dismissed former Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s appeal against a murder conviction and life sentence imposed on him by a Jamnagar sessions court in 2019 in connection with a 1990 custodial torture case, Bar & Bench reported. Bhatt has been in jail since 2018.
The case dates back to Bhatt’s tenure as the additional superintendent of police in Jamnagar. A former police constable, Pravinsingh Zala, was also convicted in the matter and handed a life term. Both parties had appealed against the Jamnagar court’s verdict finding them guilty of murder, reported The Indian Express.
“We have gone through the reasoning recorded by trial court while convicting the concerned accused persons for offences punishable under IPC Section 302 [punishment for murder],” a division bench of Justices AJ Shastri and Sandeep Bhatt said on Tuesday. “From the evidence placed on record, we are of the opinion that the trial court has rightly convicted [them].”
The prosecution alleged that Bhatt had detained more than a hundred people in connection with communal riots that took place in Jamnagar district after the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a Bharat bandh on October 30, 1990.
One of the detainees, Prabhudas Vaishnani, died in hospital of renal failure after he was released. Vaishnani’s family alleged that custodial torture by Bhatt and his colleagues had led to the death. It was alleged that the police had prevented the detainees from drinking water, which damaged Vaishnani’s kidneys.
The Bharat bandh had been called to protest the arrest of then BJP National President LK Advani, who had been leading a rath yatra from Gujarat’s Somnath to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
In April 2011, Bhatt had moved the Supreme Court against then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and accused him of encouraging the 2002 riots that left 1,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. Bhatt claimed that he had attended a meeting at Modi’s residence on February 27, 2002, at which the chief minister allegedly told his officers to “allow Hindus to vent their anger”.
Bhatt was suspended soon after he made the claims and was sacked in 2015. His department cited several reasons for his dismissal, including various counts of indiscipline such as staying absent from duty without permission and defying the orders of superior officers.
Bhatt was arrested again in July 2022 by a Special Investigation Team for allegedly committing forgery and fabricating evidence in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.