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Bhushan, Jaising battle Gujarat in SC for ex-cop, riots whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt

Jaising appears for Bhatt (Photo via Lawyers Collective)
Jaising appears for Bhatt (Photo via Lawyers Collective)

The Gujarat government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that sacked state cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, accused of hacking the email of its former law officer, could not ask which agency would undertake an investigation and how it would do so.

“Accused has no right to ask who will investigate and in which manner it should be done,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the state, told a bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra.

He also questioned the credentials of Bhatt as a police officer saying that he was not an “outstanding officer” while taking the court through series of allegations of wrongdoing that trail Bhatt in his career.The solicitor general’s arguments came in the course of the hearing of a petition by Bhatt seeking a court monitored SIT probe into the allegation by the state’s former additional advocate general Tushar Mehta that Bhatt had “hacked” his email account and “tampered” with it.

He also referred to emails mentioning the names of some eminent media persons, NGOs and social activists engaged in activities allegedly intended to influencing the apex court proceedings.

The court then reserved its verdict on Bhatt’s plea after hearing arguments from lawyers representing Bhatt, Gujarat government and Mehta and another matter wherein Bhatt has alleged that the then chief minister Narendra Modi in a meeting of the officers at his residence on 27 February, 2002, had asked them to go let people vent their anger in the wake of Godhra train carnage that claimed the lives of 57 kar sevaks.

Bhatt and other whistleblowing cops have alleged they have been persecuted by the Gujarat government in retaliation.

At the outset of the hearing, Chief Justice Dattu wanted to know whether it could pass an “extraordinary order” of court-monitored SIT probe in a matter involving a fight between one police officer (Bhatt) and his senior and there is one statement (by Bhatt) before the SIT (that investigated the Gujarat riot cases) and a false affidavit made against him by his subordinate staff.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, to whom this poser was made, answered in the affirmative saying that it was the “fittest case” as it would have a “critical bearing” not only for Bhatt in the instant case but to “larger cases of Gujarat riots and fake encounters as to who was involved.”

Telling the court that it was “bound to uphold the justice”, he said that investigation should not only be fair but must appear to be fair and thus it could not be undertaken by either Gujarat Police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which was under the administrative control of the central government.

In an obvious reference to Chief Justice Dattu showering praises on Indian Administrative Service officer Raveendran for his outstanding credentials, Ranjit Kumar targeted Bhatt saying if he was “of such an exceptional character”, he would not have waited for seven and half years (till 2009) to divulge what had happened in February 2002.

In response, senior counsel Indira Jaising, representing Bhatt, said that her client was not seeking directions on the “manner and way” of investigation but the agency that could undertake investigation.

She said that the investigation could not be given to the Gujarat Police and it has to be unbiased agency.

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