Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sanjiv Bhatt gets 20 years in jail in 1996 drug planting case

A special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district on Thursday sentenced former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt to 20 years imprisonment in a 1996 drug planting case.

Second additional sessions judge Jatin Thakker, who had convicted Bhatt in this case on March 27, declared the sentence on Thursday.

Bhatt, who is currently serving a twenty-year life imprisonment term in a separate case linked to custodial death, will now face an additional twenty years behind bars, the judge said.

The court also imposed a fine of Rs.2 lakh under the NDPS Act Section 21 (c) (punishment for contravention in relation to manufactured drugs and preparations).

Critics of Modi have slammed the cases against Bhatt, a whistleblower who testified against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat genocide, as “politically motivated.”

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. His family members and rights activists have been alleging that Bhatt was framed and targeted due to his allegations against Narendra Modi and then BJP government in Gujarat.

Bhatt has also been convicted of charges under Section 27(a) of the NDPS Act (punishment for possession of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including section 116 (abetment of offence punishable with imprisonment), sections 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document) and 204 (destruction of document to prevent its production as evidence) among others.

The drug planting case dates back to 1996 when Bhatt, who was the superintendent of police (SP) of Banaskantha in Gujarat at the time, arrested Rajasthan-based lawyer Sumer Singh Rajpurohit for keeping drugs. According to the police statement at that time, they found drugs in the lawyer’s hotel room in Palanpur in Banaskantha district. Rajasthan police claimed that their probe revealed that the lawyer was falsely implicated and allegedly abducted by Banaskantha police from his residence in Pali and that Bhatt had fabricated evidence by planting 1.5 kg of opium in the lawyer’s room. Bhatt along with his sub-ordinate I B Vyas was arrested in September 2018 after the Gujarat high court ordered an inquiry into the matter. Vyas subsequently became an approver in the matter.

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