//Riots case: Bhatt, Pathak acquitted

Riots case: Bhatt, Pathak acquitted

Were accused of leading mob that killed police constable during 1985 riots.

Express News Service

Ahemdabad, June 23: THE Gujarat High Court discharged State Law Minister Ashok Bhatt and Ahmedabad MP Harin Pathak in the more than two-decade-old case in which they were accused of instigating a mob that killed a head constable near Pakhalini Pol in the Walled City during the 1985 riots.

Justice J R Vora upheld the discharge petition.

According to case details, the incident occurred on April 22, 1995. Head constable Laxman Desai was killed by a mob near a Hanuman temple at 10.40 am and home guard Ratiram was injured when the mob attacked the police during curfew relaxation. The complaint regarding the offence was filed by the then DCP J Mahapatra against 11 persons including Ashok Bhatt, Harin Pathak and Mayur Dave who are BJP leaders now.

At the height of the anti-reservation agitation, police was accused of atrocities against protesters. The then MLA of Khadia Ashok Bhatt and others had filed a number of writ petitions in the High Court requesting that an inquiry should be held.

Acting on the petitions, a division bench comprising Justice B K Mehta and Justice G T Nanavati ordered an inquiry and formed two committees — one for holding a discreet inquiry to ascertain contentions raised in the petitions and second one for holding a local inspection and taking photographs of the properties damaged by the police.

Joint Registrar of the High Court A H Thacker and Additional Registrar B R Acharya were the committee members for local inspection.

It was alleged that in order to prove their point, the accused had hatched a conspiracy to create trouble and provoke the police at the time of the committee’s visit.

When the curfew was relaxed from 10 am to 12 pm, the police and crowd came face to face. The crowd attacked the policemen. Desai was killed and Ratiram was injured. Following an investigation, a chargesheet was filed against Ashok Bhatt and Harin Pathak for instigating the mob.

When the lower court framed the charges on November 3, 2000, Ashok Bhatt was the State Revenue Minister and Harin Pathak was Union Minister of State in the Vajpayee government. Both resigned from their respective posts on November 11, 2000.

After the charges were framed by the lower court, both leaders went to the High Court requesting a discharge. On November 14, 2000, the High Court quashed the lower court order and directed it to reframe the charges.

Then, the duo applied for a discharge in the lower court, but the court rejected their application. Ashok Bhatt and Harin Pathak next filed a criminal revision petition in the High Court. They contended that they had not committed any offence and, according to the statements of the HC-appointed committee members, they both were with the committee members when the incident took place.

The single-judge bench of the High Court upheld the contention, set aside the lower court order and discharged both petitioners. Advocate J M Panchal appeared for Ashok Bhatt and Harin Pathak.