3 Oct 2023 6:19 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 3) imposed a cost of Rupees 3 Lakhs on sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt while dismissing the petitions filed by him alleging bias and unfairness against the presiding judge who is holding the trial in the alleged drug planting case against him.A bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Rajesh Bindal imposed costs of Rupees One Lakh each on the three...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 3) imposed a cost of Rupees 3 Lakhs on sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt while dismissing the petitions filed by him alleging bias and unfairness against the presiding judge who is holding the trial in the alleged drug planting case against him.
A bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Rajesh Bindal imposed costs of Rupees One Lakh each on the three petitions filed by Bhatt. The cost has to be deposited to the Gujarat High Court Advocates Welfare Fund.
In one petition, Bhatt sought sought transfer of the trial to the Court of the senior most Additional Sessions Judge at Banaskantha(Gujarat), alleging bias on the part of the present trial judge, who is the third Additional Sessions Judge. Another petition sought for directions to audio-video record the trial court proceedings. The third petition sought to produce additional witnesses in the trial.
As soon as the matter was taken, Justice Vikram Nath asked, "How many times have you been to the Supreme Court? At least a dozen times?". Justice Nath then pointed out to the order passed by the Supreme Court in February this year which rejected his challenge to the High Court direction to expedite the trial with a cost of Rs.10,000/-.
Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for Bhatt, submitted that one application was filed to summon 19 witness, who were cited by the Prosecution but were dropped at the time of examination.
"If the prosecution cited these witnesses as Prosecution Witnesses and dropped them, and I wish to examine them as witnesses, how can it be termed as vexatious or attempt to delay the trial?" Kamat asked. "Obviously, these witnesses were inconvenient for the prosecution and that is why they were dropped," Kamat urged. He relied on Section 233(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure to buttress his arguments. Saying that the prosecution took three and half years to examine witnesses, Kamat argued that his plea cannot be seen as an attempt to delay the trial.
The bench was however not inclined to entertain the matters and proceeded to dismiss them with costs. Though Kamat requested the bench to omit or reduce the costs, the bench did not agree.
"He has been repeatedly approaching the Courts with all best of the lawyers. Of course, he has no dearth of finances. He can do something for the benefit of lawyers," Justice Nath said directing the costs to be deposited with the Gujarat High Court Advocates Welfare Fund. Senior Advocate Maninder Singh appeared for the State of Gujarat. Senior Advocate Atmaram Nadkarni & Siddharth Dharmadhikari along with Advocate On Record Abhikalp Pratap Singh appeared for the Complainant.
Bhatt is at present serving life imprisonment in another case - a custodial death case of 1990 - after his conviction in July 2019.
In the order (which was uploaded later), the Court observed that Bhatt delayed the commencement of trial by filing such applications.
"..the petitioner has every time managed to ensure that the trial does not proceed further by filing some frivolous applications before the Trial Court and then upon its rejection, approaching the High Court and may be, this Court afterwards." the Court observed in the order.
"We are thus of the view that such abuse and misuse of the process of law requires to be dealt with firmly." the bench said.
Which were the three petitions filed by Bhatt?
The petitions were filed against orders passed by the Gujarat High Court.
The first petition (SLP(Crl) No. 11884/2023) was filed against the order passed on August 24 by a bench of Justice Samir J Dave dismissing the petition to transfer the trial to another Court.
The second petition (SLP(Crl) No.11943/2023) was filed against the order passed on August 24 by a bench of Justice Samir J Dave rejecting the petition to audio-video record the trial proceedings.
The third petition (Diary Number 37428/2023) was filed against the order passed on May 5 by a bench of Justice Gita Gopi dismissing his petition to summon 19 witnesses.
What is the present case about?
Bhatt was a superintendent of police in Banaskantha district in 1996. The district police under Bhatt had arrested one Sumersingh Rajpurohit, a Rajasthan-based lawyer, in 1996, claiming that they had seized drugs from a hotel room in Palanpur town where the latter was staying. However, the Rajasthan police later said Rajpurohit was falsely implicated by the Banaskantha police to compel him to transfer a disputed property located at Pali in Rajasthan. Former police inspector IB Vyas moved the Gujarat High Court in 1999 demanding a thorough inquiry into the matter. In June, 2018 the high court handed over the probe to the state CID, and Bhatt was arrested in September, 2018. Thereafter, chargesheet was submitted against Vyas and Bhatt under Sections 120B, 116, 119, 167, 204, 343 of the IPC and Section 17, 18, 29 and 58(2) and 59(2)(b) of the NDPS Act.
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