Sacked IPS Sanjiv Bhatt sentenced to life imprisonment

Sanjiv Bhatt is currently lodged at Palanpur sub-jail in connection with an alleged case of framing a lawyer for possession of drugs when he was Superintendent of Police in Banaskantha district.

A Gujarat court on Thursday sentenced former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to life imprisonment in a 29-year-old custodial death case.

Another co-accused, policeman Pravinsinh Jhala, was also awarded life imprisonment. Five other policemen were found guilty of custodial torture and sentenced to two years in jail.

Bhatt, who had made allegations against Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots case, is currently lodged at Palanpur sub-jail since his arrest in September 2018 for allegedly framing a lawyer for possession of drugs when he was Superintendent of Police in Banaskantha district.

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Bhatt, along with six others, was present in the court when the judgement was pronounced by principal sessions judge D M Vyas. 

Special Public Prosecutor T M Gokani told DH that the court found Bhatt and Jhala guilty of custodial death.

“The court relied on all the witnesses which established that the victim was killed in a barbaric manner. All the witnesses stood by their testimonies and their statements remained in tandem throughout the trial,” said Gokani. 

The case against Bhatt dates back to October 1990 when he was posted in Jamnagar as Assistant Superintendent of Police. Bhatt and his team had arrested a man named Prabhudas Vaishnani along with 133 others after a communal riot broke out following a bandh call in view of BJP leader L K Advani’s Rath Yatra. 

Vaishnani was badly beaten up during his custody and later succumbed to injuries in hospital. Following the death, Vaishnani’s brother Amrit lodged a complaint against Bhatt and five other policemen. The trial began in 2016. The state initially refused to grant sanction to prosecute Bhatt but allowed it later.

The controversial ex-officer, who was suspended from the IPS in 2011 and sacked by the Union Home Ministry in August 2015 on grounds of “unauthorised absence from service”, testified against the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots case.

Bhatt claimed that he was part of the meeting held on February 27, 2002, in which Modi allegedly asked authorities to “let Hindus vent their anger” after the Godhra train burning incident. However, a subsequent SIT probe discarded Bhatt’s testimony as “unbelievable” on the ground that he was not present in the meeting.

His wife Shweta had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly election in 2012 from Maninagar seat against then chief minister Narendra Modi.

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