New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday demanded an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge B.H. Loya, citing the doubts raised by the deceased judge’s sister and other family members.
Addressing a press conference, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, flanked by Salman Khurshid and Randeep Surjewala, said the “truth is to be investigated… Loya talked of pressure and right now democracy is under threat.”
More so, the Congress went a step further and raised questions about what it said were the unexplained deaths of lawyer activist Shrikant Khandalkar and retired judge Prakash Thombre.
Loya had confided in Khandalkar and Thombre about the pressure he was facing to exonerate the accused in the Sohrabuddin murder case and sought their help, a note circulated during the meeting said. Both men subsequently died mysterious deaths, the Congress alleged.
Khandalkar’s body was found under suspicious circumstances behind a courthouse in Nagpur in November 2015. Sibal said, “Khandalkar sahab was also getting threats… he was thrown off a building in November 2015.”
Judge Thombre died “suspiciously while traveling in train from Nagpur to Bangalore on May 16, 2016, in Hyderabad”. There has been no FIR about this incident, the note says.
Loya officially died of cardiac arrest on December 1, 2014 in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend a wedding. Sibal also alleged that Loya’s post-mortem report was “manipulated”, citing media reports on the same doctor doing three post-mortems on the same day.
“We can’t say anything about his death, but the circumstances are telling their own story,” he added.
The chain of events
The note mentions how judge Loya, in his search for support among the legal fraternity, approached Nagpur lawyer Satish Uke in October 2014, to help him “divert attention”. Uke, the note says, went on to file matters against “influential persons who were pressurising judge Loya to pass a discharge order”.
The document also narrates how during a video call between judge Loya and Uke, the names of those allegedly putting pressure on the judge to dismiss the Sohrabuddin case were mentioned. These included not just Bombay high court chief justice at the time, Mohit Shah, but also Justice B.R. Gavai, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Subhanshu Joshi, an advocate in Nagpur.
Uke, who also addressed Wednesday’s press conference, was, in fact, convicted by the Bombay high court in 2017 for contempt of court for “abusing the process by initiating vexatious and frivolous proceedings against sitting judges of the court, other lawyers and judicial officers”.
Khandalkar, a short while before his death, allegedly told Uke that he was receiving threats from senior judges and others.
Uke too was “threatened repeatedly”, the document says, and “an attempt on his life” made on June 8, 2016, when around 5,000 kilograms of iron fell on the roof of his office barely moments after he had exited.
The Congress also put out the reply received in response to an RTI request which stated that security for judge Loya had been withdrawn by Mumbai Police in the last week of November 2014, a week before his death.
The Congress, in a powerpoint presentation, furnished several many more documents that it claimed pointed towards the fact that judge Loya died under suspicious circumstances. Among these is the FIR filed at Sitabuldi police station in Nagpur, on which there is a lot of over-writing on the dates in the report.
Kapil Sibal also said that medical papers show how Loya was admitted to Meditrina hospital in Nagpur at 6.27 am but was declared dead at 6.15 am. The papers also claim that he was given treatment till 8.23 am, when he had already allegedly been dead for over two hours.
The Congress also suggested that Loya’s post mortem report had been tampered with as the papers show how a Dr Tumram conducted two post mortem at once.
The Congress also included a copy of Loya’s ‘viscera forwarding form’, which has several discrepancies.
Fighting the injustice
The Congress said that if the Supreme Court sets up a Special Investigation Committee (SIT), the party would collaborate with it.
Sibal also said that in the absence of a proper investigation, the party would “go to every village and tell them that injustice is being meted out,” reported NDTV.
The Congress’s demand comes at a time when a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is already hearing two PILs requesting a CBI investigation into the death of judge Loya, who was presiding over the trial of several Gujarat police officers as well as BJP leader (now national president of the party) Amit Shah – for the murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh,his wife Kauser Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati.
Sibal, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, said “If the sister and father (of Loya) said they are ‘in grave doubts’, the demeanour of the young man (a reference to the press conference by Loya’s son, Anuj) should make us draw our own conclusions.”