SC dismisses Sanjiv Bhatt's pleas for judge's recusal, additional evidence
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to grant permission to sacked Gujarat-cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt to produce additional evidence before the Gujarat High Court to back his appeal against his conviction in a 1990 custodial death case. Earlier in the day, the court dismissed another appeal in which Bhatt sought the recusal of Justice MR Shah from hearing his case.
Why does this story matter?
Bhatt—who was posted in the Intelligence Bureau during the 2002 Gujarat riots—grabbed headlines after he submitted an affidavit before the SC in 2011 implicating Gujarat's then-CM Narendra Modi in the riots. He was convicted for the custodial death of Prabhudas Vaishnani, who was among the 133 people detained after communal riot erupted in Jamnagar during Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart LK Advani's Rath Yatra.
Shah was part of HC bench that heard Bhatt's case
Hearing the plea, a bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar held that the SC's observations may affect the rights of both parties in the appeal. Bhatt sought Shah's recusal from the hearing on the grounds of apprehension of bias since Shah was a member of the HC bench that imposed strictures against him while hearing his appeal relating to the same FIR.
Forum shopping: Gujarat government's counsel
Reportedly, the Gujarat government's counsel objected to Bhatt's plea, calling it "forum shopping," and questioned why he hadn't protested previously. Representing the government, senior advocate Maninder Singh argued, "You cannot have prayer for recusal on the ground of selective basis. Selective prayer for recusal would constitute contempt of court." Bhatt was sacked from the police service in 2015 on the grounds of "unauthorized service."
HC gave Bhatt lifer saying he abused process of law
He was sentenced to life in 2019 after the HC noted that he deliberately misused the process of law. In August 2022, Bhatt withdrew his plea in the SC seeking suspension of his life sentence in the custodial death case. Notably, in his 2011 affidavit, he claimed to have attended a meeting where PM Modi directed police officers to let Hindus vent their anger.
Nanavati Commission said Bhatt was lying about meeting
In 2019, the Nanavati Commission claimed that Bhatt lied about the meeting and used forged documents to back his claim. K Chakravarthi, Gujarat's DGP during the 2002 riots, said in 2011 that Bhatt was not present at the meeting. Constable Karansinh Panth, who signed the affidavit, alleged that Bhatt forced him to sign it. However, Bhatt's driver Tarachand Yadav corroborated his claims.Share this timeline