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'Sanjiv Bhatt Has Scant Respect For Courts', Says Gujarat HC While Refusing To Suspend His Sentence [Read Order]

AKSHITA SAXENA
10 Oct 2019 10:51 AM GMT
Sanjiv Bhatt Has Scant Respect For Courts, Says Gujarat HC While Refusing To Suspend His Sentence [Read Order]
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While rejecting former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's plea for suspension of sentence in custodial death case, Gujarat High Court remarked that he had scant respect for courts.The bench comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and A C Rao observed that the Court was prima facie satisfied about the conviction of Bhatt. Declining his application for suspension of sentence under Section 389 of CrPC,...

While rejecting former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's plea for suspension of sentence in custodial death case, Gujarat High Court remarked that he had scant respect for courts.

The bench comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and A C Rao observed that the Court was prima facie satisfied about the conviction of Bhatt.

Declining his application for suspension of sentence under Section 389 of CrPC, the court remarked that Bhatt had in the past made deliberate attempts to mislead the Court and that it was not inclined to grant him relief. 

"it appears that the applicant has scant respect for the Courts and is in the habit of misusing the process of law and scandalizing the Court," the division bench said.

The High Court referred to the observations made by the Supreme Court that he had made deliberate attempts to mislead the Court.

"The Court, therefore, is of the opinion that not only that learned SR. Advocate Mr.Naik has failed to make out any exceptional case for the applicant for suspension of his sentence, but it is also not desirable to suspend the same", added the Court.

Earlier, Justice V B Mayani, who sat on a division bench with Justice Harsha Devani, had recused saying "not before me" when the bail application of Bhatt and Pravinsinh Zala, another convict, came up.

Bhatt was convicted under Sections 323, 302, 506(1) read with Sections 34 and 114 of IPC and directed to undergolife-imprisonment by a Sessions Court in Jamnagar for involvement in custodial death of Jamjodhpur resident Prabhudas Vaishnani in November 1990.

The deceased along with 132 others, was taken into police custody for alleged involvement in communal violence during a country-wide bandh called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Subsequently, Prabhudas died of kidney failure, allegedly triggered by custodial torture. Bhatt then was Additional Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar (Rural Division) and was given additional charge of Jamnagar city.

Senior Advocate B. B. Naik, representing Bhatt had contended before him that the trial conducted by the Sessions Court suffered from many lapses and was "vitiated". He submitted that the trial was conducted without grant of sanction by the government as required under Section 197 of CrPC. He then pointed out that the prosecution had not examined any of the independent witnesses to substantiate the allegations leveled against Bhatt and all the persons so examined were interested-witnesses.

Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin on the other hand contested the application, stating that Bhatt was in the habit of misusing the process of law and scandalizing the Court. He argued that Bhatt had successfully "thwarted" the trial for about two decades until directions were issued by the high court and by the Supreme Court. He also submitted that the prosecution had examined all relevant witnesses so as to prove the nexus between Bhatt and the alleged crime committed by him and thus, judicial discretion in his favour was unwarranted.

In the above circumstances, the Bench refused to grant relief to Bhatt. The Court opined that any interference in the matter at this stage would only prejudice the proceedings in appeal. He said,

"any observation made by this Court at this juncture may cause prejudice to the parties one way or the other at the time of hearing of the Appeal, and therefore, it would not be desirable to reappreciate the evidence and record the findings even tentatively".

Refuting the argument advanced by Bhatt, the court noted non-examination of important witnesses was a subject matter of court in appeal.

"whether the trial had vitiated or not on account of non-examination of some of the witnesses by the prosecution or on account of other lapses would be the issues to be considered at the time of final hearing of the Appeal," court said.

The court further noted that the initial presumption of innocence in favour of Applicant-accused Bhatt was no more available to him on account of conviction and therefore, relief could be granted only if an exceptional case was made out for suspension of his sentence.

"The normal practice in the cases of conviction under Section 302 or for serious offences, is not to suspend the sentence pending the appeal and it is only in exceptional cases that the benefit of suspension of sentence can be granted," the court said. Reliance was placed on Sidhartha Vashisht alias Manu Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2008 Cri. L. J. 3524 (SC).

In view thereof the court refused to allow the application.


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