Updated: August 6, 2021 12:05:08 am
In a setback to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who is currently in judicial custody upon conviction in a 1990 case of custodial torture and is facing trial in a 1996 NDPS case, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday dismissed two revision applications in relation to his Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) 1985 trial case, while observing that Bhatt is resorting to delaying tactics.
One of the applications sought alteration to modification of charges framed against him under the NDPS Act and the other challenged the decision of turning a co-accused in the case as an approver for the prosecution.
In a case dating back to 1996, Bhatt, who was then the district superintendent of police at Banaskantha, had allegedly framed a lawyer in a narcotics case by allegedly planting 1.5 kg opium at a Palanpur hotel. The case is now under trial before a special NDPS court in Palanpur in Banaskantha district.
The trial court in March this year had permitted an application by a co-accused in the case and former police inspector of local crime branch Indravadan Vyas, seeking pardon “by promising to reveal and disclose the whole truth and give evidence on behalf of the prosecution.” The state had also submitted before the trial court that it had no objection to granting his application. Bhatt challenged this lower court’s order before the Gujarat High Court.
Bhatt primarily challenged the lower court’s order on the ground that the confessional statement made by Vyas “is nothing, but the outcome of collusion of the accused with the State of Gujarat…”
Bhatt also submitted before the high court that Vyas was in charge of the investigation of the alleged opium possession by the lawyer in 1996 and thus “being a principal offender, the role of the accused… Vyas is grave than the applicant (Bhatt)…”
The prosecution, on the other hand, submitted that Bhatt being a co-accused, “cannot question the act of granting pardon by the court to one of the accused as that is an internal matter of administration which cannot affect the position of the accused or the approver and it is the prosecution to take a decision as to whether prosecution agree to the tender of pardon.”
Dismissing Bhatt’s plea, the court of Justice Ilesh Vora in its verdict on Thursday upheld the trial court’s decision and observed that the special court “has not committed any error of law” in entertaining and allowing Vyas’s application to turn approver and prosecution witness.
The court also observed that Bhatt “has been adopting dilatory practice on each and every stage of the trial” and further noted “no party can be permitted to abuse the process of court by indulging into such dilatory and delaying tactics only with a sole intention to delay the trial.”
In a second plea before the Gujarat High Court, Bhatt challenged the rejection of his application by the special NDPS court seeking alteration or modification of charge framed in respect of offences under Sections 17, 21, 27(A) of the NDPS Act, 1985 and Sections 465 & 471 of the IPC. Bhatt had earlier in December 2018 filed an application before the lower court seeking that the proceedings against him be dropped. The same was rejected in August 2019 and was upheld by the Gujarat HC in May 2020.
It was Bhatt’s case before the high court that the prosecution added new sections under the provisions of the NDPS Act and IPC, which were not part of the chargesheet and that there is no material produced by the prosecution before the court to substantiate the said new charges.
Justice Vora while dismissing Bhatt’s plea, further observed a second time of Bhatt’s dilatory tactics. “it seems that the trial is yet to commence and it has not been commenced because of conduct and attitude of the applicant accused (Bhatt)” and with no witnesses examined, no fresh material has come before the trial court either so as to enable the court to consider altering the charges.
In view of its observations, the Gujarat HC directed the trial court to conduct the trial “expeditiously”.
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