Gujarat HC Judge Recuses from Hearing Bail Plea of Sanjiv Bhatt

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Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

AHMEDABAD – In a surprise move, one of the two judges hearing the bail plea of former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in 30-year-old custodial murder case, suddenly recused himself from the case on Tuesday without offering any reason.

Justice VB Mayani, who sat on a division bench with Justice Harsha Devani, said, “Not before me…” when the bail application of Bhatt and Pravinsinh Zala, another convict, came up.

Bhatt, who had filed an affidavit against Prime Minister  Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, over Gujarat riots in the Supreme Court, has been convicted in a 30-year-old case of custodial death case by Jamnagar sessions court.

Bhatt has challenged the order in the Gujarat High Court on 25 July.

Recounting the incident, Sweta Bhatt, wife of Sanjiv Bhatt,told Caravan Daily,“On August 26 after hearing the case, the second judge, Mr. Mayani, suddenly says he could, perhaps, have been involved in this case. All the advocates reacted by saying he had not been involved in such case. Your name is not there in any such case.”

She further said, “The lawyers from the government and private complainants’ side negated this. Yet, he insists on checking it. Then, he gives next date.”

“Evn though the lawyer from the government’s side kept saying they had to examine more on whether any such thing had happened earlier, they were constantly looking for any pretext to delay the case,” she concluded.

She said that on September 3 Justice Mayani said he did not want to hear the case without citing any reason.

“After 73 days, we are again back to square one. The case will not go to the chief and then he will allot the case to the bench. They are just delaying the case. They are deliberately doing it,” she insisted.

According to official version, on October 30, 1990, Bhatt, then additional superintendent of police of Jamnagar, detained around 150 people after a communal riot in Jamjodhpur following a ‘bandh’ against the halting of the ‘rath yatra’ veteran BJP leader LK Advani was spearheading in support of the Ram Janmabhoomi cause .

One of those arrested, Prabhudas Vaishnani, died in a hospital after his release from police custody.

However, Shweta denied involvement of Sanjiv in the custodial death saying he did not detain the victim. She termed the case a “blatant example of vindictive prosecution”.

She also alleged that her husband was not given a fair trial . He was convicted when he was in jail in another 23-year-old case.

After Bhatt’s conviction, human rights activists came out in his support. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition leader in the House also spoke in his favour. A large number of women from across the country have sent rakhi (band of sisterhood) to him.

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