Thursday, January 10, 2019
The car hit by an “unregistered” beacon-light flashing truck
By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for “involvement” in a 23-year-old case.
Though Shweta Bhatt and her son Shantanu miraculously escaped unhurt, their car was badly damaged.
Sacked by the Gujarat government in 2015, Sanjiv Bhatt has been at loggerheads with the authorities ever since he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in April 2011 against the then chief minister Narendra Modi concerning Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. According to Bhatt, on February 27, 2002, Modi asked top police officials to let Hindus “vent out their anger” against Muslims.
A shaken Shweta Bhatt suspects foul play. However, she has refused to lodge an FIR with the police as she has lost faith in the system. “I only gave a statement to the police officer who reached the accident spot and did not press any charge against the driver, who apparently was hired by a contractor of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and did not even carry the necessary documents of the vehicle,” she told this correspondent.
“It was only after I reached home that I realized that this could be a part of a sinister move to intimidate our family. But it is just my suspicion”, she added.
What made her suspicious is the trail of events since September 5, last when a troop of over two dozen policemen swooped down on her house and whisked away Sanjiv Bhatt to some unknown destination on the pretext of asking him some questions related to the 23-year-old case against him.
Sanjiv Bhatt, who was dismissed from the Indian Police Service after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, has been lodged in the Palanpur district jail since September 5. His bail application took nearly three months for the district session’s court of Palanpur to be heard and finally rejected.
The Bhatts have been facing the ordeal of facing harassment from the state government since July last after Sanjiv’s security cover was removed, despite the government being fully aware of the threats on his life, as one of the main witnesses of the 2002 riots case.
Shweta Bhatt, Sanjiv Bhatt
A couple of days later, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) suddenly demolished parts of Bhatts’ house, in which he lived for the past 23 years — an initiative, they say is based on absolutely illegal and flimsy grounds. AMC staff demolished the kitchen, the washrooms and parts of the bedrooms, while causing irreparable damage to the structural integrity of the entire house.
On September 5, the CID Crime branch entered his house at 8 am on the excuse of seeking his statement. “The CID Crime Branch officers entered our bedroom while I was sleeping there, in full knowledge, shamelessly invading my privacy, despite Sanjiv having already met with them and changing to leave with them,” Shweta Bhatt says.
On September 6, the CID presented Sanjiv Bhatt in the Palanpur court in a 22-year-old case and asked for a remand of 14 days. The court refused to grant remand, observing, “There is no justifiable ground to grant the police remand at this stage”.
The magistrate’s strict application of the law was labeled by the state government as an “act of insubordination” and challenged in the High Court. The government’s appeal for Sanjiv’s remand was heard by the Gujarat High court which granted 10 days remand.
Sanjiv Bhatt moved the Supreme Court challenging the remand order granted by the high court. The hearing was scheduled for September 24. The Supreme Court moved the hearing of the appeal to October 4, by which time the remand period would already be over. He was moved from police custody to judicial custody. Observing that the remand period was already over, the Supreme Court directed Sanjiv’s lawyers to “move the appropriate court” for the bail application.
The bail application filed in the sessions court was heard by the judge. The state government, in an apparent attempt to further delay the process, requested for 10 days to prepare an affidavit challenging the bail application and to prepare themselves for the case despite already having Sanjiv Bhatt in remand for a period of 10 days in a 22 year old case, already heard and stayed by the Supreme Court and were subsequently granted time till October 16.
On October 16, the sessions court was supposed to hear Sanjiv’s bail application. The audience was scheduled at 10:30 am. Nevertheless, the government lawyers arrived at 3 pm. To further delay the hearings, they asked for another 10-days extension to prepare the case.
Thus, there was another 10-days’ extension in a 22-year old case, already heard and stayed by the Supreme Court 22 years ago. A case which, incidentally, used to be the State of Gujarat vs the State of Rajasthan, but which suddenly became the State of Gujarat vs Sanjiv Bhatt.
The session’s court rejected Sanjiv Bhatt’s bail plea on December 12, following which he appealed the High Court. However, Justice A Y Kogje recused himself from the case, and the matter is listed before the court of Justice SH Vora, who has issued a notice to the state government to file its reply by January 8.
However, on January 8 the matter suddenly gets transferred from Judge S H Vora and gets re-listed in the court of Justice Sonia Gokani.
Shweta Bhatt’s car is hit by a truck on January 7. That explains her paranoia.
*Senior Ahmedabad-based journalist