A district and sessions court in Jamnagar Thursday sentenced dismissed IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to life imprisonment in a 1990 custodial death case when he was Additional Superintendent of Police in the district. He is already in Palanpur jail, under judicial custody since September last year, for allegedly framing a man in a drug seizure case.
His wife Shweta Bhatt said they plan to appeal the Jamnagar court order in a higher court after studying it thoroughly. In a press release, she called it “a classic case of political vindictiveness”.
A Gujarat cadre IPS officer who had once made allegations against then Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his handling of the 2002 riots, Bhatt was suspended in 2011 and sacked by the Ministry of Home Affairs in August 2015, one of the charges being “unauthorised absence from service”.
The Jamnagar court convicted Bhatt and police constable Pravinsinh Zala under IPC section 302 (murder) and sentenced them to life in jail in the 29-year-old custodial death case. They were also handed jail terms of a year and two years after being found guilty of section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and section 506 (1) (punishment for offence of criminal intimidation) respectively.
Five others — police constables Pravinsinh Jadeja, Anopsinh Jethva and Kesubha Dolubha Jadeja and police sub-inspectors Shailesh Pandya and Dipakkumar Bhagwandas Shah — were found guilty of custodial torture and sentenced to jail terms of one year under section 323 and two years under section 506 (1).
The case dates back to 1990 when Bhatt was posted as Additional Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar. He had detained 133 people under TADA following a riot in Jamjodhpur town after L K Advani’s Rath Yatra was stopped and a Bharat Bandh announced in October that year.
On November 18, 1990, one of the persons detained, Prabhudas Vaishnani, died in a hospital after his release. His family alleged it was due to custodial torture. A complaint of custodial death was lodged against seven police personnel, including Bhatt, by Amrutlal Vaishnani, brother of Prabhudas. The case was transferred to the Gujarat CID branch in Gandhinagar.
In his complaint, Amrutlal alleged that the detainees were beaten with sticks and rifle butts, made to do sit-ups, crawl on elbows and were not allowed to drink water.
Amrutlal said that the torture and lack of water caused kidney problems which led to the death of Prabhudas.