1996 Drugs Seizure Case, In Which Ex-IPS Officer Sanjiv Bhatt Has Been Convicted | Explained

??Sanjiv Bhatt was superintendent of police (SP) of Banaskantha district from October 13, 1995 to October 18, 1996. Police inspector Indravadan Vyas raided a Palanpur hotel acting on Bhatt's instructions in 1996 and seized 1.15 kg opium from a room and arrested a Rajasthan-based lawyer, Sumer Singh Rajpurohit.
Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt

Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has been convicted in 1996 narcotics case.

Photo : PTI
New Delhi: A Gujarat court on Wednesday convicted jailed former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in a 1996 drugs seziure case. This was the second conviction for the former bureaucrat in a criminal matter. Earlier in 2019, he was found guilty in a custodial death case by a Jamnagar court which also awarded him a life sentence.
A sessions court in Palanpur town of Gujarat's Banaskantha district found him guilty of falsely implicating a Rajasthan-based lawyer. According to a PTI report, Bhatt had in 1996 claimed that police had seized drugs from a hotel room in Palanpur where the lawyer was staying.

What Is The Case All About

Sanjiv Bhatt was superintendent of police (SP) of Banaskantha district from October 13, 1995 to October 18, 1996. Police inspector Indravadan Vyas raided a Palanpur hotel acting on Bhatt's instructions in 1996 and seized 1.15 kg opium from a room and arrested a Rajasthan-based lawyer, Sumer Singh Rajpurohit.
In October the same year, the lawyer filed a complaint before a magistrate and accused Bhatt, Vyas, and many others of framing him by planting the opium in the room. In his complaint, Rajpurohit claimed that Bhatt had framed him at the behest of a former Gujarat High Court judge over a dispute over a property where he was a tenant, an Indian Express report stated.
The next month, based on his complaint, an FIR was lodged at Kotwali police station in Pali, Rajasthan, against 17 persons. On the other hand, in response to the Palanpur FIR, Vyas submitted a report under CrPC Section 169 (Release of accused when evidence deficient), admitting that the person occupying the hotel room was not Rajpurohit. Hence, the lawyer was discharged by the court. However, the case didn't end here.

Prolong Delay

Justice RR Jain (retd), who was named in Rajpurohit’s complaint, moved an application before Gujarat HC in 1998 seeking transfer of the investigation in the 1996 Palanpur FIR from Gujarat Police to the CBI. He also urged for reinvestigation of the Kotwali police station case either by CBI or by a police officer not below the rank of DGP.
The delay in the proceedings of the case continued till February 2000 when the police filed an ‘A-summary’ report (investigation suspended because of lack of evidence) in the Palanpur case. The court did not pass any final order on whether the report was accepted.
18 years later in April 2018, the Gujarat HC ordered that the Palanpur FIR should be probed by an SIT comprising Gujarat CID Crime officials.

Bhatt's Arrest And NDPS Slapped

After the HC's 2018 directions, Sanjiv Bhatt was arrested in September the same year and the SIT investigation, headed by Virendrasinh Yadav was completed. The chargesheet was filed on November 2, 2018 before an NDPS court in Palanpur against Bhatt and Vyas for offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).
A year later on September 18, charges were framed against Bhatt and Vyas, but not against retired Justice Jain.
The charges included offences under NDPS Act sections 21(c), 27A (punishment for financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders), 29 (abetment and criminal conspiracy to commit offence under NDPS Act), 58(1) and(2) (vexatious entry, search, seizure and arrest), as well as for IPC offences under sections 465 (forgery), 471 (using forged document), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 204 (secrets or destroys any document), 343 (wrongful confinement), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intent), the IE report mentioned.

Vyas Turns Approver

In 2021, Vyas filed an application in the NDPS court seeking pardon from the offences in exchange of turning approver. The plea was accepted. Later, Bhatt challenged the NDPS court’s decision in the Gujarat HC, which was later rejected in August 2021.
In October the same year, the High Court partially allowed a petition by Bhatt seeking access to documents related to the case so as to present in the trial. Also, the NDPS court was asked to complete the trial in nine months.

Another Setback To Bhatt

In August 2023, the Gujarat HC rejected two applications filed by Bhatt who sought a transfer of the trial in this case to the Palanpur district court’s senior most additional sessions judge, and quashing of a Palanpur court order of June.
Notably, it was this order in which Bhatt’s request for a transfer and a stay on the trial was rejected. However, the court termed Bhatt’s pleas as attempts to "scandalise and pressurise the court".
The former IPS officer then accused the presiding trial judge in Palanpur of "bias" and submitted before the HC that he is "not receiving fair and impartial trial", the IE report added.
Last year only, the former IPS officer approached the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the trial in the 28-year-old drug case to another sessions court alleging bias. He also sought directions for recording of the trial court proceedings. However, to no avail, the apex court had dismissed Bhatt's plea and imposed a cost of Rs 3 lakh on him for alleging bias against a lower court judge conducting his trial in the drug planting case, a PTI report mentioned.
End of Article
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