Gujarat court begins Sanjiv Bhatt’s trial for murder

A Jamnagar court on Thursday began trial against suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and six other policemen in connection with a 1990 case of custodial torture leading to the death of a man.

The court has framed charges of murder and allied offences against Bhatt and others and has posted the matter for December 4 for recording of evidence.

Recently, the Gujarat High Court had dismissed a petition by one of the accused and ordered the subordinate court to frame charges at the earliest.

Public prosecutor Vimal Chotai said the court had read out charges to the accused and rejected their application to challenge the same.

The case came into limelight after Bhatt filed a controversial affidavit last year accusing Chief Minister Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 riots.

The case relates to the alleged custodial torture of one Prabhudas Vaishnani in October-November 1990, who was among the 150-odd people rounded up for rioting from Jamkhambhalia in Jamnagar district by Bhatt, then Assistant Superintendent of Police there. Though the suspects were granted bail and released, Prabhudas later died of renal failure on November 8.

Prabhudas's brother Amratlal lodged an FIR against Bhatt and six other policemen accusing them of murdering him by custodial torture.

Investigation of the case was handed over to CID (Crime), whose summary report was rejected by a court, which also ordered criminal proceedings against the accused police officers.

However, the state government then intervened with a petition opposing criminal proceedings against them but withdrew the same a few months ago.

Though Bhatt and others challenged the state government's move, their pleas were rejected first by the Sessions Court and then by the HC, where a single-bench recently directed the Jamnagar court to start the trial at the earliest.

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