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HC grants former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's plea against virtual hearing in 1996 case


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Chennai:

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday allowed former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's plea seeking a direction to a court at Palanpur in Banaskantha district to not conduct virtual hearings of applications in a 1996 alleged drug planting case, and adjourn it till the physical hearings resume.

The applications pending before the Palanpur court are related to the case of planting of drug to allegedly frame a lawyer from Rajasthan.

Bhatt was arrested in the case by the CID in September 2018.

Bhatt is currently serving life sentence in a separate custodial death case.

The court of Justice Vipul Pancholi allowed Bhatt's plea, his lawyer Saurin Shah said.

"We had prayed that there should be no virtual hearings of around three-four applications moved in Palanpur court in connection with the drug planting case till the physical court resumes. Our application has been allowed. The court has accepted our prayer," Shah said.

Courts have been hearing cases through online mode due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arguing against the online hearing of the pleas, Bhatt had told the high court that it was not possible for him to make lengthy arguments in a virtual court due to the voluminous records.

The Palanpur court had rejected his similar plea, after which he had moved the high court.

He was also asked by the high court to submit an undertaking that he will not seek a regular bail in the same case on the grounds of delay in trial.

Bhatt was arrested on September 5 last year on the charges of framing the Rajasthan-based lawyer by planting drug in a case that dates back to 1996 when he was superintendent of police of Banaskantha district.

The case was investigated by the Gujarat CID on orders of the high court, leading to Bhatt's arrest.

In June this year, a court in Jamnagar district had sentenced Bhatt to life imprisonment in a case of custodial death.

Bhatt was found responsible for the death of Jamjodhpur town resident Prabhudas Vaishnani in November 1990 when he was posted as the additional superintendent of police in Jamnagar district.

Vaishnani was among around 150 people detained by the police following a communal riot in Jamjodhpur town in October 1990.

Bhatt was suspended from the Indian Police Service in 2011 and sacked by the Ministry of Home Affairs in August 2015 for "unauthorised absence" from service.

He had several run-ins with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat over the 2002 post-Godhra riots.