New Delhi: In a setback to arrested former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed his wife's plea challenging the police probe and his judicial custody in a 22-year-old case of alleged planting of drugs to arrest an advocate, and said that he could approach an "appropriate forum" for relief.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph held that it was not appropriate for the apex court to interfere in the ongoing investigation.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Gujarat government, said that Sanjiv Bhatt was arrested on September 5, in accordance with law and produced before the jurisdictional magistrate at Palanpur of Gujarat within 24 hours seeking his police custody.
He said that the assertions of the petitioner, Shweta Bhatt, that the accused was not allowed to sign the 'vakalatnama' are factually wrong, incorrect and contrary to the contemporaneous record and appear to have been made to create prejudice against the investigation.
Rohatgi said that Sanjiv Bhatt's counsel had appeared before the magistrate to oppose the plea for police remand filed by the probe agency and it was recorded in the order of September 6.
He said that everything was done in compliance with orders of the court.
On the Vakalatnama issue, Rohatgi said that during the days of judicial custody between September 6 to September 12, two lawyers Shirishbhai Modi and S B Thakore had met the accused-petitioner's husband.
The state government said that Thakore met Bhatt twice and Shirishbhai Modi met him once during his judicial custody.
The government in its affidavit said besides the lawyers even relatives of Bhatt have met him in jail and he was represented by a lawyer of his choice in the high court.
"The facts clearly show and indicate that the accused - petitioner's husband, at no point of time was prevented in any manner from either meeting his lawyers or signing Vakalatnama and/or any other documents or from meeting anyone," the affidavit said.
After perusing the affidavit, the bench dismissed the petitions filed by Shweta Bhatt.
"We do not think appropriate to interfere in the ongoing investigation. Liberty to approach the appropriate forum in accordance with law," the bench said.
On September 24, the apex court had termed as "serious" the allegations made by Shweta Bhatt that he was not being allowed to sign any document in custody to enable him approach the apex court.
The top court then asked the Gujarat government to file a reply on the allegations on or before October 4.
Bhatt and seven others, including some former policemen attached with the Banaskantha Police, were initially detained for questioning in the case. Bhatt was the Banaskantha district superintendent of police in 1996.
As per the police, the Banaskantha Police under Bhatt had arrested one Sumersingh Rajpurohit, an advocate, in 1996 on charges of possessing around one kg of drugs.
At that time, the Banaskantha Police had claimed that drugs were found in a hotel room occupied by Rajpurohit in the district's Palanpur town.
However, a probe by the Rajasthan Police had concluded that Rajpurohit was allegedly falsely implicated by the Banaskantha Police to compel him to transfer a disputed property at Pali in Rajasthan.
It had also claimed to have found that Rajpurohit was allegedly abducted by the Banaskantha Police from his residence at Pali in Rajasthan.
Following the Rajasthan Police investigation, former police inspector of Banaskantha I B Vyas had moved the Gujarat High Court in 1999 demanding a thorough inquiry into the matter.
In June this year, the high court had handed over the probe in the case to the CID while hearing the petition and asked it to complete the probe in three months.
The Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was suspended in 2011 on charges of remaining absent from duty without permission and misuse of official vehicles and later sacked in August, 2015.
Bhatt's wife Shweta had unsuccessfully contested assembly election as a Congress party candidate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Maninagar constituency in Ahmedabad in 2012.