Dismissed Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt hobnobbed with leaders of a “rival political party” and NGOs, approached the court with “unclean hands” and made “false and baseless” claims in his petition that the two criminal cases against him were an attempt by the Gujarat Government to silence him for speaking out against the role of top functionaries of the State in the 2002 riots, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday rejecting Bhatt’s petition seeking an SIT probe into the two cases against him.
The Bench of Chief Justice Hl Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra discovered that besides the senior leaders of Gujarat’s “rival political party” (read Congress) Bhatt also took instructions from NGO activists and their lawyers, and used the media to create pressure on judges and amicus curiae associated with the monitoring of the Gujarat riots cases in the SC.
The Congress has consistently backed Bhatt to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It had described his dismissal as witch hunting by the BJP Government in Gujarat. “Gujarat Model of Governance has begun. Sanjeev Bhatt dismissed. Strongly condemn it. All opposed to Fascism must collectively support Sanjeev,” Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh had tweeted after Bhatt’s dismissal in August.
Another Congress leader Rashid Alvi said it appears as if Narendra Modi is the country’s Prime Minister as well as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. “He has given this message to the bureaucracy that if anybody will go against the wishes of Narendra Modi ji, he will meet the same fate of Mr Bhatt,” he added.
At one point of time, Bhatt’s wife had even sought to contest the lok Sabha poll against Modi. Bhatt, who claimed that he was present at the meeting held at Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s residence on February 27, 2002, had told the Justice Nanavati Commission enquiring into the riots that the State deliberately acted slowly leading to several innocents being killed in the violence.
In the SC, Bhatt produced a series of emails to indicate that reports of Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gujarat riots were leaked to Gujarat’s law officers and counsel for the accused to further his claim that a conspiracy existed between the State, investigating agency and outsiders.
The first case against Bhatt related to his subordinate alleging that he was coerced to give an affidavit to the Nanavati Commission confirming presence of Bhatt at CM’s residence on February 27, 2002. The other case against Bhatt was filed by his friend and then Additional Advocate General of Gujarat Tushar Mehta claiming that his email account was allegedly hacked by Bhatt.
The email exchanges of Bhatt with NGO activists and its lawyers, showed how he was tutored by them to depose before the Justice Nanavati Commission. This made the xourt to conclude, “It cannot be said that the petitioner (Bhatt) has come to this court with clean hands…petitioner in spite of being a senior IPS officer was interacting with top rival political leaders of Gujarat.”
His email exchanges with journalists also suggested how he used “media card and sent emails to influence the judicial proceedings of a three-judge Bench and has tried to influence the amicus curiae”. The court also questioned Bhatt’s silence for nine years as all this information was not disclosed by him to the Nanavati Commission or the SIT when his statements were first recorded.
As a counter to hacking case slapped on him, Bhatt alleged that his email account was hacked too. But much to his chagrin, the SC found that he complained the matter to Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police, which has no jurisdiction to try cyber crimes, a fact which was known to him being a senior police officer.
With regard to transfer of sensitive information of the SIT to accused, the court held that Bhatt suppressed enclosures of the mail that revealed his allegation to be false as the information exchanged by SIT with then AAG had nothing to do with riots cases.
The court found that the submission made by Bhatt was to “sensationalise” the issue and unnecessarily widen the scope of the two complaints against him. The court directed the trial in the two cases to proceed expeditiously against Bhatt and found that the State, although exchanged contents of affidavits with outsiders who were advising the State Government on the issue, this in itself did not amount to contempt of court. Moreover, the State had not utilised the suggestions made by the said advisers in the final affidavit filed in the court.