New Delhi: Seventeen years on, the Supreme Court has dismissed a petition by a former judge of the Gujarat High Court who faces charges of conspiring with now-sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to falsely implicate a lawyer in a drugs case.
While junking the appeal filed by former judge Ramanlal Rajmal Jain, the top court also dismissed the plea moved separately by the Gujarat government against prosecution of its police officers, including Bhatt.
Former High Court judge Jain and the Gujarat government had resisted the investigation and prosecution by the Rajasthan police into the charges of falsely implicating a lawyer in 1996 to get him to forcibly vacate a property belonging to Jain's sister.
Notably, with the dismissal of the petitions, the stay granted in 2002 against prosecution of the accused in the case charge-sheeted by the Rajasthan police also gets lifted. Rajasthan Police are now at liberty to proceed against all the accused.
The order was recently passed by a bench led by Justice SA Bobde which dismissed Jain's petition after taking on record a submission by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi on behalf of the Gujarat government.
Rohatgi, citing a judgment by the Gujarat High Court, said that the state government has granted sanction to prosecute Sanjiv Bhatt and others into these charges and, therefore, the state was not inclined to pursue its case any further before the top court.
Reading out from the HC order, the senior lawyer underscored that the HC directed a special investigation team (SIT) of CID (Crime) to investigate the FIR lodged against the lawyer, who claimed that Jain, then Superintendent of Police Bhatt and Banaskantha police framed him under the narcotics law.
Rohatgi submitted there were two FIRs in this matter. First, the FIR lodged by the Gujarat police against the lawyer under the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. And second, the FIR lodged subsequently by the Rajasthan police on the complaint by the lawyer alleging frame-up at the behest of the former judge and Bhatt.
When the former judge petitioned the Supreme Court in 2001, Rohatgi said, the Gujarat government had opposed the investigation by the Rajasthan police. However, he added, now that the state has given sanction to prosecute Bhatt in Gujarat, the state did not wish to pursue its case anymore.
Putting on record the recent developments, the bench then ordered: “It is obvious that the State of Gujarat cannot pursue these appeals for protecting the same officer whom they are prosecuting in Gujarat. Accordingly, these appeals are dismissed.”
This case has witnessed a chequered history ever since the matter came to light. In 1996, 1.5 kg of narcotics was recovered from a room of Lajwanti City Hotel in Palanpur and police arrested a lawyer, Sumer Singh Rajpurohit, claiming that he was in the possession of the illegal drugs.
Later on, it was found that Rajpurohit was abducted from his home in Pali, in neighbouring Rajasthan, and the drugs were allegedly planted by Palanpur police. The police allegedly did so for vacating the property occupied by Rajpurohit, which belonged to a relative of Jain, who was then a judge in the Gujarat High Court.
Rajpurohit, by way of executing a document, was allegedly forced to vacate the property while he was in police custody at Palanpur. It was alleged that Bhatt, who was sacked from service in 2015, played a key role in the case.
Rajpurohit subsequently lodged a criminal complaint and the Rajasthan police started probing the case. The then chief justice of the Gujarat High Court also permitted the Rajasthan police to question its judge, Jain.
Jain then moved the Rajasthan High Court against the investigation but his plea was dismissed. He then moved the Supreme Court in 2001, which not only stayed the prosecution, but also sought to know from the Gujarat HC whether its chief justice complied with the norms and consulted the Chief Justice of India before giving a nod to investigate a High Court judge.
The matter remained pending ever since. Meanwhile, Jain was never confirmed as a permanent judge in any High Court. He later retired from the subordinate judiciary. The case was recently taken up by a three-judge bench for detailed arguments when a change in stand by the Gujarat government prompted the apex court to give a burial to the matter pending for 17 years.