‘Not before me’: HC judge withdraws from hearing of Sanjiv Bhatt’s bail plea

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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.

Ahmedabad, Sep 3, 2019: A Gujarat High Court judge on Tuesday withdrew himself from the hearing of a bail plea filed by sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in a case of custodial death.

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.

The judge did not assign any reason for the recusal.

Bhatt and Zala’s appeals against conviction are pending before the same division bench. A sessions court in Jamnagar has sentenced Bhatt and Zala to life sentence for a custodial death in 1990.

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 BJP leader LK Advani’s ‘rath yatra’ for the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya.

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

His brother accused Bhatt and six other police officials including Zala (then a constable) of torturing Vaishnani in custody.

Bhatt, dismissed from service in 2015, is behind bars since September 2018 after his arrest in another case where he is accused of framing a man in a drug possession case.

While in police service, Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, alleging that then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had asked senior police officers in a meeting at CM’s residence to allow the Hindu community to vent its anger after the Godhra train carnage in February 2002.

The Special Investigation Team which probed the 2002 riots concluded that Bhatt, being a junior official, could not have been present at this meeting, and hence his account was not credible.

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