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Gujarat High Court takes objection to Sanjiv Bhatt questioning fairness of trial

A Jamnagar sessions court convicted Bhatt and six other policemen in June this year in the Jamjodhpur custodial death case.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: September 25, 2019 2:28:31 pm
Gujarat High Court takes objection to Sanjiv Bhatt questioning fairness of trial Justice Bela Trivedi of the division bench rebuked Bhatt’s lawyers — senior counsel BB Naik and advocate on record, Ekant Ahuja — saying, “You cannot scandalise the court like this. I’m not saying this but there are SC judgments that say so. There can’t be personal attack on the judge.” (Source: File)

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday took strong objection to a part in former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s application seeking suspension of his sentence in the 29-year-old custodial death case in Jamnagar. The portion of his application questioned the fairness of the trial by the lower court and the sessions court judge who presided over the trial.

Opposing Bhatt’s plea, public prosecutor and senior counsel Mitesh Amin, representing the state government, highlighted Bhatt’s conduct during the hearing on Tuesday. Pointing to a paragraph in his application, Amin emphasised that Bhatt’s application mentioned it as a “vitiated trial” and stated that the sessions judge was “predetermined”.

Justice Bela Trivedi of the division bench rebuked Bhatt’s lawyers — senior counsel BB Naik and advocate on record, Ekant Ahuja — saying, “You cannot scandalise the court like this. I’m not saying this but there are SC judgments that say so. There can’t be personal attack on the judge.”

When Naik tried to explain, Justice Trivedi said, “We intend to take action (and pass an order to that effect) unless you tender an unconditional apology.” The petitioner’s advocate expressed regret and it was agreed to delete the said paragraph.

A Jamnagar sessions court convicted Bhatt and six other policemen in June this year in the Jamjodhpur custodial death case. The case dates back to October 30, 1990 when Bhatt, then additional superintendent of police of Jamnagar district, and other police officers arrested 133 persons from Jamjodhpur town for allegedly indulging in rioting during a nationwide bandh by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The bandh call was in protest against BJP president LK Advani’s arrest during his rath yatra.

Prabhudas (40) and his youngest brother Rameshchandra were among the arrested who were booked under the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Of the seven convicted, Bhatt and then police constable Pravinsinh Zala were sentenced to life imprisonment. Both moved the Gujarat HC against their conviction and sought suspension of their sentence.

Zala’s advocate made submissions seeking suspension of his sentence on the grounds that the main investigating officer at the time (in October 1990) who recorded statements of witnesses of custodial torture, was not examined by the court or the prosecution. He also appealed that the age of the accused who is 66 years old be considered for relief. Bhatt’s counsel is expected to argue further Wednesday.

The public prosecutor opposed the pleas, emphasising on Bhatt’s past record of conduct. Without naming Bhatt, the public prosecutor said, “One of the accused misused anticipatory bail granted to him in another case in 1991. He has a series of complaints against him. In 1996, he was also engaged in a case of planting narcotics. One of his constables, KD Panth, was coerced by this accused to make an affidavit of his choice whereafter Panth filed an FIR. There is also a complaint of hacking the e-mail of a law officer. His conduct was also condemned by the Supreme Court for deliberate attempt to mislead the court…”

The public prosecutor submitted before the division bench, that given that the two were convicted on charges of murder (IPC section 302), exceptional case needs to be made out for granting discretionary relief. “The two accused were in custody technically for only two months,” it was argued.

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