Responding to a petition by dismissed IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s wife Shweta Bhatt before the Gujarat High Court seeking police protection, the Ahmedabad police commissioner’s office told the court last week that in July 2018 the security cover of 64 persons, including Sanjiv Bhatt, was withdrawn, as there was no perception of threat against them. The police’s response claimed Sanjiv Bhatt was raising the issue for “momentary publicity”.
Ahmedabad Additional Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) Prem Vir Singh, who filed the reply on behalf of the Ahmedabad police commissioner said in the affidavit, “…on 16th July 2018, the threat perception of a large number of individuals was reviewed as per settled norms and following procedure prescribed…security was withdrawn with respect to 64 persons, including of the petitioner’s husband as it was found that… (they) no longer required to be given any security as none of them had any threat.”
The decision “was taken on merits” and “with respect to a large number of persons”, the reply added. “No exception, therefore, can be found in the case of petitioner’s husband or family.”
The additional chief secretary of Home department chaired a committee meeting on July 16, 2018 to decide on 150-plus cases for police protection, and decided that continued protection was need in 95 cases, and not needed in 64 cases, the reply said, adding that Sanjiv was found to be “periodically praying for being given security and such requests are leaked by him in the media just to gain a momentary publicity”. The present petition is “a continuance of the very same exercise of gaining momentary publicity.”
Advocate Anand Yagnik, representing Shweta Bhatt, said, “There are no details as to who constituted this review committee and how the review or assessment was done. There are no minutes of the review meeting provided or how the committee concluded that there remains no perception to threat.”
Moreover, Yagnik clarified, the petition pertains to security cover for Shweta and her family and does not involve Sanjiv, who is in judicial custody.
Bhatt was arrested on September 5, 2018 in relation to a drug-planting case of 1996. On July 18, 2018, armed security protection granted to Sanjiv and his family was suddenly withdrawn, following which Sanjiv approached the Supreme Court. In an order dated February 8 this year, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the plea, the apex court disposed of it, stating he could approach the Gujarat High Court. Following this, Shweta filed her petition in the high court in May.
The petition states, “The present petition is filed for providing security to the petitioners at the Cost of the State Government…The family of the petitioner consists of Sanjiv Bhatt (the husband of the petitioner)” and their son and daughter, “who is a doctor and pursuing her education abroad”.
Advocate Yagnik told the court that the petitioner was seeking an independent assessment of the threat perception, given several incidents that have occurred, including the demolition of a part of her house as well as the fact that the petitioner had contested the 2012 Assembly elections against then Chief Minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I (the petitioner, Shweta) am seeking protection for myself and my family residing here and not Sanjiv,” Yagnik reiterated.
Elaborating on the threat perceived, Shweta’s petition said“…that she feels threaten(ed) by both i.e. Gujarat police in plain clothes and unknown (people), who are following their movements. Therefore, somebody will have to police the police.”
The Commissioner’s office responded, “…the entire country would be entitled to (protection) merely by falsely contending that each one of the citizens feels that they are being followed by unknown persons.”
The affidavit also claimed that Shweta was “suppressing material facts” and called her assertions “vague”.
Shweta’s petition listed eight instances that “raised concerns about the security of the petitioner”. These include a car accident involving Shweta and her son on January 11. The next hearing is on September 12.