Saturday, April 20, 2024

Gujarat court convicts former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in 1996 drug seizure case

A Sessions court at Palanpur in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district on Wednesday convicted former IPS officer and whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt in the 1996 drug-planting case. The court is expected to pronounce its verdict on the quantum of the sentence on Thursday.

Bhatt, a whistleblower who testified against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat genocide, is already serving life imprisonment over his conviction in a 1990 case of custodial torture. Critics of Modi have slammed the cases against him as “politically motivated”.

Bhatt is found guilty of falsely implicating a Rajasthan-based lawyer by claiming that in 1996 police had seized drugs from a hotel room in Palanpur where the lawyer was staying. Bhatt, who was sacked from the Indian Police Service in 2015, was then serving as the superintendent of police of Banaskantha district.

IB Vyas, an inspector with the local crime branch in Palanpur, was also implicated as a co-accused in the case. In 2021, Vyas became an approver in the case.

Additional sessions judge JN Thakkar found him guilty under Sections 21(c), 27A (punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders), 29 (abetment and criminal conspiracy to commit offence under NDPS Act), 58 (1) and (2) (vexatious entry, search, seizure and arrest) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985, LiveLaw reported.

The district police under him arrested Rajasthan lawyer Sumersingh Rajpurohit under relevant sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) in 1996, claiming they had seized drugs from a hotel room. But the Rajasthan police later said the Banaskantha police falsely implicated Rajpurohit to compel him to transfer a disputed property.

Last year in August 2023, the Gujarat High Court rejected a plea filed by jailed former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt demanding a transfer of his trial in the 1996 drug-planting case to a court in Banaskantha district.

Bhatt claimed to have attended a meeting, during which Modi allegedly asked top police officials to let Hindus vent their anger against the Muslims. However, the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India concluded that Bhatt did not attend any such meeting, and dismissed his allegations.

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