In a setback to sacked Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain his plea seeking examination of 11 additional witnesses in a 30-year-old custodial death case in which he is facing the trial.
Bhatt had moved the apex court saying that examination of these 11 witnesses was crucial for arriving at a just and fair decision in the case.
The Gujarat Police strongly opposed his plea before a vacation bench of justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi and termed it as a "tactic to delay the outcome of the case".
Senior advocate Maninder Singh and advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the state police, told the bench that the lower court has reserved its verdict in the case and the judgement is scheduled to be pronounced on June 20.
Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for Bhatt, contended that the examination of these witnesses was crucial for a fair trial in the case.
However, Singh told the court that this case has been dragged for almost three decades and since a three-judge bench of the apex court had already passed an order on May 24 on a similar plea, the court should not entertain Bhatt's petition.
The bench, after perusing the May 24 order, said it will not interfere with the order passed by the three-judge bench and dismissed Bhatt's petition.
During the hearing, the bench also questioned Bhatt's counsel for the delay in approaching the apex court against the April 16 order of the Gujarat High Court.
"Why have you not come to the court earlier? The impugned order is of April 16. This court had passed the May 24 order on a petition against the same high court order," the bench told Khurshid.
During the hearing, Singh told the bench that final arguments are over in the 1989 custodial death case and the trial court has fixed the matter for pronouncement of verdict on June 20.
He referred to the May 24 order and said the three-judge bench had directed the lower court not to delay the case any more and conclude the trial by June 20.
He said that Bhatt was only "trying to delay the outcome of the trial" and his conduct was even recorded by the Gujarat High Court in its earlier orders.
Singh said that the high court's order of April 16 was in Bhatt's favour as it had allowed him to examine three out of 40 witnesses.
"We, as a state, had produced those three witnesses but he (Bhatt) had refused to cross-examine them. Now, when the final arguments are over and judgement is reserved for June 20, he is approaching the apex court," Singh said.
Bhatt was posted as the additional superintendent of police in Gujarat's Jamnagar at the time of the incident.
According to the prosecution, Bhatt had detained more than hundred persons during a communal riot there and one of the detainees had died in hospital after he was released.
He 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 had moved the apex court challenging the Gujarat High Court order which had denied his request to summon additional witnesses for examination during the trial.