NCHRO strongly condemns the life imprisonment awarded to Sanjiv Bhatt as it smells of political revenge.
NCHRO is gravely alarmed by the life imprisonment awarded to former IPS Officer Sanjiv Bhatt as it smacks of politically motivated vindictive harassment, aimed to create a climate of fear and intimidation and illustrative of the authorities growing intolerance of opposition to its strong-arm methods
Sanjiv Bhatt has been sentenced to life following a trial marred by irregularities by a sessions court in Jamnagar in Gujarat under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The prosecution had alleged that Bhatt, as an additional superintendent of police in Jamnagar in 1990, had detained more than 133 people in connection with a communal riot and one of them died in hospital after he was released. It is strange that at no point in time were any of the arrested 133 persons, including the deceased, neither in custody nor interrogated by Sanjiv Bhatt or any of his staff.
This is a classic example where an innocent officer has been persecuted for doing his duty with diligence and a clear message to all those who are shedding light on the crimes committed by the Hindutwa regime. Sanjiv Bhatt’s allegations about Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat Genocide cost him his job of 27 meritorious years. He has been denied his pension and other service benefits. His depositions and affidavits before the Nanavati Commission, the National Commission for Minorities, and the Supreme Court contained incriminating material suggesting the state’s complicity and deliberate inaction during the 2002 violence.
Cooked up cases have been charged on Bhatt one of them being, the Jamnagar alleged custodial death which took place some 30 years ago. The true purpose for prosecuting and restricting Sanjiv Bhatt was to punish him for – and prevent him from continuing his fight for rule of law. Ironically as per National Crime Records Bureau, around 180 custodial deaths took place in Gujarat between 2001 and 2016, and none of the police personnel have been punished for any of these deaths make Sanjiv Bhatt’s case so special.
The Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court, giving a clean chit to Narendra Modi and other powerful functionaries of the state is currently under challenge before the Gujarat High Court, and Sanjiv Bhatt remains a key witness to the alleged role and function of the state administration in the 2002 genocide.
These cases were part of a ‘troubling pattern’ of the case against critics of the Government, civil society activists, human rights defenders and brave officers who are systematically criminalized and victimized in a deliberate manner. Worryingly, we detect a lack of judicial safeguards for these human rights defenders.
The NCHRO calls upon Sanjiv Bhatt’s immediate and unconditional release on bail and to ensure that his right to a fair trial is upheld. The NCHRO extends its support to the family of Mr. Bhatt and stands in solidarity with other human rights defenders targeted simply for their work to ensure justice.