The Gujarat government today rubbished in the Supreme Court the claim of sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt that he was present at a meeting to discuss law and order situation during the 2002 communal violence at residence of the then Chief Minister. “The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) had come to the conclusion that the petitioner (Bhatt) was not present at all in the February 27 meeting,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the state, told the court which reserved its verdict on the pleas of the dismissed IPS officer.
Bhatt had recently filed two interim applications seeking a SIT probe into allegation of misuse of state machinery during 2002 post-Godhra riots and the alleged roles of top BJP and RSS functionaries and some senior bureaucrats. The counsel for the state referred to the contents of various communications of Bhatt, then Deputy Commissioner (Security), and told the bench comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra that the officer was in constant touch with Congress leader and the then Leader of Opposition in Gujarat assembly and some top journalists.
“An unsolicited affidavit was tendered in the Supreme Court and that was an attempt to mislead the court,” he said, alleging that Bhatt had showed an affidavit to a journalist who advised additions which were incorporated as well. The SG, assisted by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, alleged that Bhatt was in “constant touch” with certain Congress party leaders, activist Teesta Setalwad and top media professionals.
Earlier during the day, senior advocate Indira Jaising and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Bhatt, alleged collusion among top state government functionaries, the then Additional Advocate General, the then minister of state for home and some lawyers for the accused and sought court-monitored SIT probe into Bhatt’s claims.
Jaising said that a SIT probe, instead of seeking CBI investigation, was needed to inquire into the “collusion of the highest order” as the then Chief Minister is now the Prime Minister and the then AAG is now the Additional Solicitor General of India.
Senior advocate L Nageshwar Rao, appearing for then Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta, alleged that Bhatt was trying to revive whatever happened since 2002. The SC-appointed SIT probed nine cases, convictions have taken place in some and appeals have also been filed against them, he said. “The attempt is to revive what happened since 2002 and has been settled. They have nothing to say blameworthy and unethical on the part of Tushar Mehta and he cannot be blamed for impeding the end of justice,” he said.
Rao said the apex court had said the SIT probe was an extra-ordinary measure and moreover, Jaising was seeking CBI probe into Vyapam scam and here, a demand for SIT is made. “In Vyapam case, Indira Jaising asked for CBI probe and had no complaints against the CBI that it was under the supervision of the present government at the Centre. “The earlier government faced several charges of corruption and who investigated the cases. It was the CBI which was the only premier agency to investigate all those cases of scams. Everybody asked for CBI investigation,” he said.
The bench later stopped Jaising from referring to Vyapam scam saying that matter is “sub judice” and lawyers should not comment about it. Rao claimed if the demand of Bhatt for a SIT probe was accepted, there would be flooding of frivolous pleas like this in the apex court. On alleged hacking of Mehta’s mails, the lawyer said, “He (Bhatt) betrayed me. Betrayed my friendship and caused so much of agony to me… nobody is listening to his hacking of e- mails.”
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Gujarat police constable K D Panth who had lodged an FIR against Bhatt, said the credibility of the former IPS officer is “doubtful” and there are several cases against him. On allegations against some SIT members, Singh said, “I had represented some members of the SIT. I experienced that it was the easiest thing to make allegations against the SIT members even if there was nothing against them. This court never doubted any members whether it was the Chairman or any other member.”
“Panth was forced to give affidavit by Bhatt who threatened him and said that Modi is not going to stay for long as the Chief Minister,” he said. Advancing rejoinder arguments at the end of the day-long proceedings, Jaising said, “I am asking for further investigation, so you have to see what is the scope of the investigation. Whether it can be done by the Gujarat Police, CBI or the SIT etc.
“My submission is the scope of investigation has to include within its ambit the fact that the FIR is based on a false statement. This FIR is lodged in vested interest to deny my presence in the meeting with the CM.” Earlier, the counsel for Bhatt had alleged that he was victimised and targeted by the state government, whose strategy was to shoot the messenger for his bold speaking on the handling of law and order situation during the 2002 riots.
Jaising had also said that the e-mail accounts of Mehta would show how a top BJP leader, an RSS functionary and some bureaucrats were coming in the way of the administration of justice in the riot cases and encounter cases. The IPS officer, dismissed from service on August 18 this year, had filed the petitions in the apex court in 2011 against the lodging of FIRs against him by the Gujarat Police. One of the petitions pertains to an FIR lodged by Gujarat police constable K D Panth in Ahmedabad alleging that Bhatt had pressurised him to sign an affidavit testifying that the IPS officer had participated in a high-level meeting after the Godhra carnage.
In another FIR, he has been accused of allegedly hacking then state’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta’s e-mail account. In fresh applications, the sacked IPS officer had also sought to implead top BJP and RSS leaders and senior IAS officers alleging that they were part of a larger conspiracy to subvert the ends of justice. The apex court had earlier stayed criminal proceedings against the officer.
He has sought fresh investigation against him in all cases with a plea for direction to internet service providers to preserve all data he has put in the applications.