||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (June 2012)|
21 December 1963 |
|Alma mater||Indian Institute of Technology|
|Relatives||Shweta Bhatt (wife)|
|Country||Indian Police Service|
Sanjiv Bhatt is an Indian Police Service officer in Gujarat. He is known for his role in filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court of India against the Chief Minister of the Government of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, concerning Modi's alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Sanjiv Bhatt was educated at Hill Grange High School in Mumbai and later at St. Xavier’s High School (Loyola Hall) in Ahmedabad. He then attended the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, where he completed a post-graduate course.
The burning of a train at Godhra, Gujarat, in February 2002 caused the deaths of 59 people and heightened tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the region. Sanjiv Bhatt, who joined the Indian Police Service in 1988 and at the time of the tensions held the rank of Deputy Commissioner in the State Intelligence Bureau, subsequently claimed to have been present at a meeting involving Narendra Modi when the government response to the events was discussed. He said that the meeting determined to bring the dead to Ahmedabad prior to cremation, and that he had cautioned against this because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the youth wing of the Hindutva-oriented Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajarang Dal (BD), were stirring tensions and violence might ensue. The VHP had proposed a bandh (an illegal general strike) and Bhatt claimed that the then Director General of Police, K. Chakrabarthy, and the city Police Commissioner, P. C. Pandey, had raised concerns regarding the manpower available to deal with this, and both men advised that it was not wise for the bodies to be taken to Ahmedabad. He also claimed that at the meeting Modi had asked police officials to allow "Hindus to vent out their anger against Muslims”, while failing to give any instructions that might protect the populace. Bhatt also says that he sent some fax messages to major officials soon after the meeting ended and that these referred to the meeting itself, the decision regarding the bodies of the dead and the growing activity of the BJP and BD. Subsequently, riots occurred in which around 1200 people died, most of whom were Muslim.
Described as a whistleblower both by some of the Indian media and some pressure groups, Bhatt has since referred to the events as "state-sponsored riots" and has alleged both that Modi told his officials to be "indifferent" towards rioters and said that Muslims needed to be "taught a lesson".
In March 2008, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation chief R. K. Raghavan, to "inquire and investigate" cases relating to the various incidents that had occurred in 2002. One of those who died in the Gulbarg Society massacre that formed a part of the riots was Ehsan Jaffri, the former Indian National Congress Member of Parliament. His widow, Zakia Jaffri, subsequently became concerned about the involvement of senior officials in allegedly aiding and abetting the rioters and by the lack of legal action against them by the police. She petitioned the Court, alleging criminal conspiracy, a "deliberate and intentional failure" to protect life and property, and failure to fulfil their constitutional duty. In 2009, the Court responded by directing the SIT to investigate the actions of Modi and 62 other people, including Pandey and some VHP leaders. Bhatt presented evidence to this particular SIT investigation in 2009.
Later, in April 2011, Bhatt filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court concerning the Modi meeting. He believed that the SIT was attempting to obscure the truth. The Court had previously appointed Raju Ramachandran to act as amicus curiae (friend of the court). Ramachandran had reviewed the original confidential SIT report that had been submitted in November 2010. His report was also confidential but prompted the Court to order the SIT to conduct a self-review. That self-review had been submitted in April 2011 and the Court referred this for consideration by Ramachandran in May, which was also when it refused to accept Bhatt's affidavit.
Soon after Bhatt filed his affidavit, the government announced that Bhatt was neglecting his official duties by not turning up for work. He was later suspended from his post for that reason. He claimed that he was required to attend various legal and investigatory hearings.
Among those hearings was that of the Nanavati-Mehta Commission (NMC) — originally known as the Nanavati-Shah Commission — which had been established by the government of Gujarat. In May 2011, Bhatt repeated the allegations made in his affidavit when he was called to give evidence to the NMC. Prior to this appearance and in order to support the statements that he would make during it, Bhatt had attempted to obtain documents as evidence from the police and the State Intelligence Bureau, as well as from the SIT hearing. He again requested this information in December 2011, claiming that it was needed in order that it could be placed on the official record. These requests for information failed, and Bhatt alleged that this was because the Modi government opposed them because it was involved in a "cover up". As of January 2012[update], the NMC has consistently refused to demand production of the documents, despite Bhatt's belief that it has the legal powers to do so.
In June 2011, Bhatt filed a Public-interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court, calling for an independent agency to investigate the riots or, alternatively, for the case to be transferred outside Gujarat. Bhatt also alleged that his emails had been hacked and filed a complaint against the state alleging that they had been leaked from the SIT.
Arrest and reactions
A police officer, Tara Chand Yadav, had confirmed in April that Bhatt had been driven to Modi's bungalow at the time of the meeting in February and that another driver, K.D. Panth, had been with them. He also confirmed Bhatt's claim that he travelled there with Chakrabarthy. On 30 September 2011, Bhatt was arrested following a report filed by Panth, who alleged that Bhatt had threatened and forced him to sign a false affidavit to avow that Bhatt had been present at the meeting.
The arrest gave rise to protests at places such as Ahmedabad, Delhi and Bangalore. The Gujarat IPS Officers Association also expressed their support for Bhatt and his family, although this was far from being unanimous and was downplayed by various senior officers. Bhatt has referred to being harassed by members of the Gujarat police.
He was bailed on 17 October, on condition that he continued to cooperate with investigations into the allegations laid against him. His bail application had been opposed by the Modi government. The Supreme Court suspended the case in April 2012, with Bhatt arguing that the arrest was "politically motivated".
Bhatt was among those who refused to accept an award offered by the Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar Academy in 2011. This was because a co-awardee was Jagdish Tytler, who is alleged to have been involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
A former BBC journalist, Shubhranshu Choudhary, filed an affidavit in November 2011 that supported the claim that Bhatt was at the 2002 meeting.
In the same month, he requested that the SIT allow his testimony to be recorded in the presence of a magistrate as he believed that his earlier statements to it had been distorted. He made several similar requests thereafter.
In January 2012, the SIT demanded the original copy of the fax messages that Bhatt claimed to have sent after the Modi meeting and which, according to Bhatt, substantiated his presence at the meeting. Bhatt said that he had already provided the evidence in 2009 and again in 2011. He also noted that the SIT could get the information from the SIB records, and he claimed that the SIT was failing to interview police officials who could testify to his movements on the night in question. This was not the first occasion that he had alleged the SIT was reluctant to examine key witnesses who could verify his whereabouts at the time of the meeting.
Bhatt has produced evidence of police inaction to SIT chairman along with a letter which had details of deployment of police, SRP and RAF in the state, areas under curfew, types of crimes committed during the riots, etc. In that letter he also alleged delayed deployment of army. He insisted that those documents were intended for the sole purpose of ensuring that crucial evidence is not disregarded or concealed by the SIT with a view to screen powerful and influential offenders from legal punishment". The SIT has not yet[when?] taken steps to verify Bhatt's claim that he was present at the meeting of 27 February 2002. Bhatt in a letter written to SIT alleged that the probe team didn’t exhume the bodies from well of Naroday Patia despite strong evidences catered by him to support his claim. He also complained that Ahmedabad police commissioner P. C. Pande was alerted on the same.
In February 2012, Bhatt accused the SIT of destroying evidence in collusion with the Gujarat government. Bhatt has once again written to the NMC seeking state intelligence and police records, documents and log books pertaining to Godhra riots as he thought the remaining records too may be destroyed by the Government.
He also claimed before the panel that Modi was wantonly giving misleading answers and unfortunately the investigation officer didn’t contradict him with all evidences that were available at his disposal.
Bhatt suggested in March 2012 that the final report of the NMC should be submitted to the governor of Gujarat rather than to its chief minister, Modi. He also thought that the earlier NMC report, which concerned the Godhra train incident and had been produced in 2008, should be recalled from the chief minister and presented instead to the governor. The basis for his request was that Modi's actions formed a part of the terms of reference of the enquiry and that ""no person shall be a judge in his own cause". He also criticised the earlier report, in which the NMC had exonerated Modi of any wrongdoing in relation to the riots. Bhatt believed that the NMC lacked the official authority to make such a statement. He also criticised the failure of the NMC to summon Modi to appear before it, and a few days later he requested that Modi should be summoned on the basis of an affidavit that had been filed with the Commission by the late Amarsinh Chaudhary, a former Gujarat Chief Minister, in 2002. Bhatt claimed that the affidavit showed that Chaudhary had met with Modi during the period of the riots because he was concerned about reports of events in the Gulbarg Society, including the situation of Ehsan Zafri. According to Bhatt, the affidavit records that Chaudhary had found Modi to be not very "responsive" when they met and that he had received reports that the police were not acting as they should during the events.
Bhatt’s allegation on inaction of police officers upon instruction from Modi was also supported by K. S. Subramanian who was a member of fact finding team led by former Supreme Court Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer.His conclusion was the outcome of his interaction with former Gujarat police chief Chakravarthy and P.C.Pande who was then Ahmedabad police commissioner.
At a convention marking the tenth anniversary of the Godhra, Bhatt said that he is unable to see any justice for the victims of riots. Bhatt was issued summon by National Commission for Minorities along with other retired and serving police officers of Gujarat to testify the role of Modi to bring out the truth of 27 February 2002 meeting which held at Modi’s home. The summon was issued to Bhatt on the basis of a complaint filed by Niyazbibi Malek,
Bhatt contacted Pratibha Patil, the Indian President, in April 2012. He sought a probe against Modi. He has requested the centre to appoint two member commission to enquire the role and conduct of Modi, his officials and police officers in the Godhra massacre. He also demanded an investigation into the government’s measures on the rehabilitation for victims.
The SIT released all details of its investigations related to the Jaffri complaint of complicity on 7 May 2012, following deposition of its final report with the courts. The release included the two reports of Ramachandran, the amicus, that had been submitted in January and July 2011. The documents revealed that the SIT believed that Bhatt had not been present at the meeting and that this was supported both by statements from those who had been present and by analysis of Bhatt's telephone records, which suggested that he was in Ahmedabad at the time. The SIT also found that the fax message that Bhatt claimed to have sent never existed and he concocted it later and the signatures of his superior officers were forged. Their preliminary report did note that there was a lack of credibility among the witnesses present at the meeting, some of whom had retired and were claiming either a loss of memory or had been in receipt of retirement benefits that might impact upon their neutrality. In addition, the SIT considered Bhatt to be an unreliable witness who had attempted to coach other witnesses, had not provided adequate explanation for his nine-year silence regarding the events surrounding the meeting and had been imprecise in his description of the events. They also though that he had "an axe to grind" against the state.
The Ramachandran reviews painted a different picture. He queried how the SIT could rely on the testimony of witnesses who were present at the meeting when the investigation had itself raised doubts concerning their credibility, and he provided a rationale that could explain Bhatt's presence despite his relatively low rank. He also disputed the SIT conclusions regarding the telephone records analysis and said that the matter of presence needed to be tested in court because the evidence available was insufficient to discount Bhatt's claim. Bhatt had claimed that there were two meetings on the day in question, at different times. Ramachandran's reports also showed that he thought that, if they were true, the alleged statements made by Modi were actionable in law and that the veracity of those allegations should also be tested in court. Ramachandran accepted that Bhatt had not acted in a manner consistent with his official duties but noted that
In my opinion, despite the aforesaid background, it does not appear very likely that a serving police officer would make such a serious allegation against Mr. Modi, the Chief Minister of the State, without some basis. There is no documentary material of any nature whatsoever which can establish that Shri Bhatt was not present in the meeting on 27.02.2002.
There were other differences of opinion between the SIT and Ramachandran but there were also points upon which they agreed. One of these was that the murdered Haren Pandya, who had been the Gujarat Home Minister at the time of the riots but later had a falling out with Modi, could not have been at the meeting and therefore could not have vouched for Bhatt's presence there, as had been claimed by a former judge in February 2012.
Shweta Bhatt contested unsuccessfully against Modi in the 2012 state assembly elections.
After the official release of the Amicus curiae’s report, The Times of India described Bhatt as pivot in the case against Modi. Bhatt criticised the published SIT report on the Godhra attack, claiming that the SIT was shielding Modi. Besides his deposition before NCM, Bhatt has filed an affidavit in National Commission of Minorities (NCM).In his affidavit Bhatt has asked the rights panel to initiate action against the SIT headed by R K Raghavan for incorrectly recording his statements or tweaking them to give a clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He also alleged that certain very crucial portions of his statement, including the timings of extremely consequential meetings with the chief minister Narendra Modi on 27 February & 28 February 2002, have either been incorrectly recorded or deliberately tweaked by the SIT, possibly with the ulterior motive and intent of shielding certain powerful persons including the chief minister from legal punishment.
Concerns have been raised at various times regarding the personal safety of Bhatt. At the time of filing his Supreme Court affidavit in April 2011, Bhatt requested the Court for protection and the Gujarat government assured the Supreme Court that it would provide personal safety arrangements. This situation had arisen because Bhatt believed that the SIT had passed on his testimony to the state government and thus he feared for the security of himself and his family.
His wife, Shweta, alleged that there was harassment during the period that he spent in jail under arrest in October 2011. She requested that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India intervene to ensure that both he and his family were protected. The MHA instructed the government of Gujarat accordingly.
Bhatt had been provided with two personal guards but considered this to be insufficient. In November 2011 he requested improved security, including provision of a bullet proof car. He repeated his demands in February 2012, when he also raised objections on personal safety grounds to a request from the Gujarat police that he should return his service revolver.
In November 2013 Bhatt alleged that city police was not providing him adequate security, and there was an increased threat to his and his family members' lives from the "right-wing fundamentalists and the supporters of Narendra Modi". Earlier, Bhatt had alleged that his security had been downsized. The office of Commissioner of Police Shivanand Jha said that after the assessment of threat perception, it was decided that Bhatt should be provided with two armed personal security officers. However, Bhatt wrote to the commissioner, saying that he was being "provided with only one armed PSO". 
Other legal cases
As of April 2012[update], Bhatt is named in at least three other legal cases, all relating to his work in the police force:
- He is one of the accused in a case involving the death of a person in custody in 1990, allegedly as a consequence of being beaten.
- He has been accused of custodial torture relating to an incident in 1998.
- In April 2012, another allegation of custodial torture was registered against him, relating to an incident in 1990 that allegedly resulted in the complainant suffering kidney failure.
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