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How a 22-year-old drug bust case has returned to haunt Modi critic & former IPS officer

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Former Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt had claimed then CM Narendra Modi was complicit in the 2002 communal riots.

Ahmedabad/New Delhi: On 5 September, former Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, along with another police officer, was arrested by the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in connection with a 22-year-old case of alleged planting of drugs.

Bhatt’s wife, who moved the Supreme Court seeking relief, suspects his arrest was the result of an alleged “political vendetta” and questions the manner in which the case was allowed to drag on for years.

The top court Thursday dismissed her plea, saying the petition can be moved before the Gujarat High Court.

Also read: Supreme Court dismisses petition filed by the wife of arrested former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt

According to the details of the case, a Rajasthan-based advocate, Sumersingh Rajpurohit, was arrested by Gujarat police in 1996 for allegedly possessing 1.15 kg of opium worth Rs 8,120. Police had claimed that the contraband was found in a hotel room that was booked in Rajpurohit’s name.

Rajpurohit was subsequently released, but he filed a complaint against Bhatt following which an FIR was registered against the former IPS officer and others on charges of abduction, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy.

Bhatt’s dismissal from service

In 2011, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging complicity of then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots. The 1988 Gujarat cadre IPS officer had told the apex court that he attended a meeting held by the CM in which Modi had allegedly asked top police officers to let Hindus vent their anger against the minority community in the aftermath of the Sabarmati Express blaze at Godhra railway station, which had left 59 Hindus dead.

Following this, Bhatt was suspended by the state government. A dossier on Bhatt had been forwarded to the union home ministry by the state seeking Bhatt’s dismissal. Four years later, in 2015, Bhatt was dismissed from service by the ministry.

Family’s allegations

After nearly seven years, Bhatt’s security cover, comprising one policeman, was withdrawn by the Gujarat government on 18 July this year, his family members said. The move was termed by the state police as a periodic security review of protectees. In the hours that followed, Bhatt shot off a letter to CM Vijay Rupani raising concerns over the “sudden” and “inexplicable” withdrawal of “the meagre security”, his family said.

According to his family, the alleged harassment and intimidation by the state machinery continued. On 30 July, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) razed an “illegal construction” in Bhatt’s house.

“The AMC officials came with a bulldozer and razed the structure without prior notice. Our kitchen was a part of the building which was razed and I was standing in the kitchen when a bulldozer started demolishing it,” said Shweta Bhatt, the former IPS officer’s wife.

“We had documents proving that the construction had been undertaken with permission from the AMC but the entire operation was carried out in a matter of minutes,” Shweta said.

The situation finally came to a head on 4 September, said Bhatt’s family. They claimed a team of policemen, in uniform and plainclothes, arrived at Bhatt’s Ahmedabad home. He was initially picked up for questioning in connection with the 22-year-old case.

Bhatt was later arrested along with then inspector of Palanpur police station I.B. Vyas, who was also the investigating officer in the drugs case.

In the days that followed, Bhatt’s family alleged that he was not allowed to execute vakalatnama and any other documents that were needed to file a special leave petition in the SC.

Last week, Shweta moved the top court with these complaints, claiming that her husband was not being allowed to seek relief there. The apex court took note of the matter and directed Gujarat government to file an affidavit.

“The timing itself says so much. For the current government, it is either with me or against me. Until recently, I did not even know that Sanjiv was seen as such a threat to the government,” Shweta said.

“He is only speaking the truth or speaking on behalf of people. If they think that he is not doing so, investigate him. Be it a police officer or any other person, everything follows a procedure,” she added.

Shweta also questioned the manner in which the case was allowed to drag on for years.

“Look at the manner in which this case is being carried out. Why is the government harassing him? How many more people will be harassed by them?” she asked.

The case

On 4 April 1996, acting on a tip-off, the Banaskantha district police in Gujarat had conducted a raid on Hotel Lajwanti at Palanpur where 1.15 kg of opium was recovered. While there was no person in the room where the drug had been found, the hotel register showed that the room had been booked in the name of Rajpurohit.

An FIR under sections of the NDPS Act was registered at Palanpur and two days later, Rajpurohit was picked up from his residence in Pali, Rajasthan. Despite being in police custody for nearly six days, Rajpurohit was not identified as the occupant of the room and, was released on bail, prior to the completion of his police remand period.

In October 1996, however, Rajpurohit filed a private complaint to the Pali chief judicial magistrate in which he alleged that he was abducted, arrested illegally and forced to vacate the premises of a disputed shop in Pali when he was in police custody.

Rajpurohit further alleged that it was only after he had vacated the property that Palanpur police filed a closure report against his involvement in the case.

Following Rajpurohit’s complaint, an FIR was lodged in Pali Kotwali under relevant sections of IPC relating to abduction, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy as well as sections of the NDPS Act against former Gujarat High Court judge R.R. Jain, Vyas, Bhatt and others.

Rajpurohit had claimed that the disputed property belonged to a close associate of Jain and he had been framed in the opium case by Banaskantha police, who were allegedly working in connivance with the judge.

In a supplementary chargesheet filed by the Rajasthan police on 14 January 1998, Bhatt was named as accused in the case, along with 19 others. A year later, Bhatt was granted bail by a special NDPS court in Jodhpur which was hearing the matter.

In May 2000, while hearing the special leave petition filed by Jain against Rajasthan High Court’s dismissal of quashing of his petition, the SC put a stay on further proceedings. Incidentally, a special leave petition “challenging the same judgment of Rajasthan High Court” had also been filed by the Gujarat government and the two SLPs were clubbed.

Further in 2002, the SC had granted leave in both SLPs and maintained that the stay would continue and ruled the matter be put before a three-judge bench.

“The said special leave petitions are pending before this Hon’ble Court and stay continues till date,” said the petition filed by Shweta.

How did case come up 22 years later?

On 30 April, the case came up before the Gujarat High Court during a hearing on two petitions filed earlier — one by the Gujarat government and the second by Vyas.

Both petitions had also asked that the narcotics case registered at Palanpur police station be probed by the CBI. Gujarat HC judge J.B. Pardiwala directed that a special investigation team (SIT) be formed to look into the matter.

“In the result, both the writ-applications are disposed of with a direction that the investigation of the C.R.No. 216/96 registered with the Palanpur City Police Station be conducted by a Special Investigation Team constituted…out of the CID (Crime), State of Gujarat, which is a central agency of crime detection in the State of Gujarat (sic),” the HC order said.

Also read: Wife of ex-cop Sanjiv Bhatt alleges he is being blocked from approaching court, SC terms the matter serious

“As this litigation is of the year 1996, the investigation shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of service of this order and in the right direction. There shall not be any delay or any callous attitude in the conduct or completion of the investigation,” the order read.

Gujarat govt defence

Responding to allegations levelled by Bhatt’s family in the SC, the Gujarat government said in an affidavit that “the accused… at no point of time, was prevented in any manner from either meeting his lawyers or signing vakalatnama and/ or any other documents or from meeting anyone”.

It further said that as per jail visitor records between 6 and 12 September when Bhatt was in judicial custody, “over and above the advocates, two relatives of the accused-petitioner’s husband also came to meet him and were never prevented in any manner”.

The affidavit also alleged that Bhatt “had been consciously making efforts to make out a false ground based upon an alleged violation of his fundamental right to receive legal assistance and, therefore, surprisingly, an application came to be moved on 18.09.2018 before the ld. Magistrate at Palanpur by his advocate on his behalf.”

“The said application mentioned a non-existing ground that the accused is not permitted to meet his lawyer,” the affidavit said.

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  1. Every Action must have opposite and equal reaction. Very Logical Judgement to set right Criminal IPS. UPSC must Answer that,how such type of candidate is being Selected and who were the members of Interview Board. Let Letter to be Issued to each Member reminding their Disqualifiation For Selection Process ( To Assess Mindset for Public Administratio).

  2. Victim of circumstances, you sow good you reap good when you sow bad the results you can understand. Certain results are immediate certain take time to flower. Time alone can justify.

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