MUMBAI: Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who had accused the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 riots, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday by the Jamnagar sessions court in a custodial death case.
Bhatt was accused of custodial torture of Prabhudas Madhavji Vaishnani in Jamnagar in November 1990, while he was posted as the Assistant Superintendent of Police there. Vaishnani was among 133 people taken into custody from Jamjodhpur area of Jamnagar for rioting during a Bharat Bandh. He died 10 days after his release on bail following which an FIR was registered against Bhatt and few other officers.
While the magistrate took cognizance of the case in 1995, trial started only in 2011, as it had earlier been stayed by the Gujarat High Court. Vaishnani died in hospital and medical records attributed it to renal failure, but relatives said he was subjected to custodial torture for nine days.
Bhatt had approached the Supreme Court saying all 300 witnesses in the case ought to be examined as against the 32 till then, but got no relief. Finally, Jamnagar judge D M Vyas sentenced Bhatt along with head constable Jhala to life imprisonment on Thursday.
The court also convicted five other policemen - sub-inspectors Dipak Shah and Sailesh Pandya, and constables Pravinsih Jadeja, Anopsinh Jethva and Keshubha Jadeja - in the case and sentenced them to two years in prison.
On October 30, 1990, then additional superintendent of police Bhatt detained around 150 people following a communal riot in Jamjodhpur town after a 'bandh' call against the halting of veteran BJP leader L K Advani's 'rathyatra' for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
One of those arrested, Prabhudas Vaishnani, died in a hospital after his release.
Vaishnani's brother later lodged an FIR against Bhatt and six other police officials, accusing them of killing his sibling by torturing him in detention.
During the trial, prosecutor Tushar Gokani argued that Bhatt's role in the "torture" of the victim was evident.
The case against Bhatt remained pending for years as the state government did not give its nod for prosecuting him at that time.
The government later gave permission for the prosecution of Bhatt and others in the case.
On September 5, 2018, Bhatt was arrested in connection with another 23-year-old case of falsely implicating a man for alleged possession of drugs.
The case is under trial.
(With PTI inputs)