New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress traded charges against each other soon after the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions demanding an independent probe into Judge B.H. Loya’s death. Since the Congress had been supporting the petitioners after questions around Loya’s death emerged in the last few months, the BJP launched a scathing attack on the Rahul Gandhi-led party.
Loya, a judge at the CBI court, was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which the current BJP president was the primary accused and was acquitted soon after the judge’s death in December 2014.
What the BJP said
At a press conference, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad representing his party demanded that Rahul Gandhi should apologise for “his reckless allegations”.
“Justice Loya died on 1st December 2014. There was no complaint, no grievance for three years. The mischief began only three years later. We were silent until now. All the BJP leaders said that law should take its own course. But today we would like to state our position.”
“Rahul Gandhi took a delegation to the president. His party leaders made a variety of allegations against our national president, Amit Shah. But the court has proven that we were right,” he added.
Prasad read out portions of the judgement. He said that the judgement clearly says that the bench examined all the records and found no justification for a probe into Judge Loya’s death.
He said that the judgement also says that all the four judicial officers who had said that Loya had died of a heart attack were examined by the commissioner of state intelligence department after seeking permission of the chief justice of the Bombay high court. “The fact is important as the investigation was done as per the relevant vigilance manual,” the minister said.
He further quoted sections of the judgement where the three-judge bench disapprovingly said, “(the petitions are) an unfortunate attempt to use every possible ploy to cast aspersions on members of district and higher judiciary. Senior counsels were also blamed. We must express our disapproval in no uncertain terms.”
He added that the BJP concurs with the judgement which says that the petitions were filed to settle political scores. He further said that the judgement says that “the petition is a veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of judiciary and credibility of judicial institutions…conduct of the petitioners and intervenors…prima facie constitutes criminal contempt.”
The bench chose not to act against the criminal contempt, Prasad added.
On behalf of the party, the minister said that the case was not in public interest and instead was in the interest of the Congress party, which wanted to throw mud on the BJP and its national president, Shah, by taking recourse in courts. “I would urge him, please don’t fight political battles in courts based upon false allegation, malicious facts. The Congress did not even refrain from scandalising the independence of judges. We demand that he should apologise,” he said.
Congress, on the other hand, stood its ground. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that “it was a sad letter day in India’s history”.
“The case had caused concern and anxiety among a large section of populace…The verdict of the honorable Supreme Court has left many questions unanswered for all those seeking a fair investigation and justice in the death of Judge Loya,” he said.
The party placed on record its ten apprehensions and questions surrounding Loya’s death:
Sohrabuddin/Tulsirram Prajapati fake encounter case was transferred from Gujarat to CBI court, Mumbai by the Supreme Court in the year 2012, directing that same judge will preside over the trial from start to finish. Judge Utpat was designated as special CBI Judge in Mumbai. He allegedly reprimanded the accused for not appearing in his court and fixed the case for June 26, 2014. A day before, on June 25, 2014, he was abruptly transferred. Judge B.H. Loya was posted in his place. Judge Loya died in suspicious circumstances on November 30, 2014. Post that, shri Amit Shah has been since discharged and CBI refused to file an appeal against the order of the discharge.
Sister of Judge Loya gave an interview to a media house on November 21, 2017, to allege that he was being offered a Rs 100-crore bribe plus residential flat/property in Mumbai for delivering a verdict in favour of the accused by a former chief justice.
Judge Loya was stated to have died on account of heart attack. ECG and histopathology report of Judge Loya showed no evidence of heart attack. On the contrary, Dr R.K. Sharma, ex-head of Forensics & Toxicology at AIIMS stated that there was no evidence of heart attack and there was evidence of ‘possible trauma to the brain’.
Judge Loya’s security was withdrawn on November 24, 2014 in Mumbai and he was not provided any security as he travelled from Mumbai to Nagpur, where he died on November 30, 2014.
There is no travel record of Judge Loya travelling by train from Mumbai to Nagpur.
There is no entry or record of Judge Loya having stayed in the occupancy register of Ravi Bhavan, Nagpur on November 30, 2014. Fifteen employees posted in Ravi Bhavan, Nagpur did not even recall that Judge Loya ever stayed in Ravi Bhavan.
There was no reason for three judges to sleep in a room with only two beds when adjoining rooms were empty. Why did the 15 members of the staff then not know either about the stay or the heart attack? Why were no entries made in the occupancy register?
Family of Judge Loya has publicaly stated that clothes on his dead body had blood stains, especially near the neck area.
Post-mortem of Judge Loya was conducted on December 1, 2014 without information and consent of any immediate family members. There were discrepancies even in recording of Judge Loya’s name in post-mortem report.
Two of the other colleagues of Judge Loya, who were allegedly informed about the pressure being put on him, also died under suspicious circumstances. One associate, advocate Khandalkar’s body was found in district court, Nagpur after alleged fall from the eighth story on November 29, 2015. (November 28, 2015 was closed court work and he was missing for two days). Second associate, retired Judge Thombre died in suspicious circumstances while travelling in train from Nagpur to Bangalore on May 16, 2016. There is no FIR or an investigation in these deaths till date. One advocate Satish Uke, raising the issue narrowly escaped death when on July 8, 2016, heavy weight iron material of 5,000 kgs fell on his office.
Saying that only an independent probe can decide whether Loya’s death was natural or not, Surjewala questioned the logic of the Supreme Court judgement. “Can statements of some judges made in an administrative enquiry before a police officer be the sole yardstick for arriving at a conclusion, more so when there is suspicion being raised by available forensic evidence, opinion of experts, documents, discrepancies and statements of various witnesses given to different organisations pointing towards a possible conspiracy?”
“In law, according to us, statements made even by a judge before a police officer have no evidentiary value. Can such statements then be the sole criteria for not conducting any investigation,” he asked.
Attacking the BJP, he said that the saffron party was trying to “make false capital out of SC Judgement.” He said that the BJP was misinterpreting the judgement to point fingers at the Congress.
“Original petitioners before the court were Bombay Advocates Association. Intervenor was Centre for Public Interest Litigation. Hostility of the third petitioner to the Congress party and proximity to the ruling BJP is well known in public domain. Congress party was not a petitioner before the Supreme Court. Congress including 14 other political parties raised the issue before the president of India and in people’s court. For a vile BJP to misinterpret SC’s judgement to attack the Congress party reflects their jitteriness and frustration,” Surjewala said.
Loya’s family dissatisfied
Meanwhile, Judge Loya’s family members, who were hoping that the Supreme Court would allow a probe, showed its dissatisfaction. “The judgment is not as per our expectations. There are a number of unanswered questions,” Srinivas Loya, the judge’s uncle, told The Print. “It would have been much better if there was an independent probe. But we don’t have any expectation from anyone anymore about this. The media and opposition parties have been taking the issue up, but nothing seems to be coming of it,” he added.
Anuradha Biyani, Loya’s sister, who had said that the judge was offered a bribe of Rs 100 crore for a favourable judgement for Amit Shah and pointed out several suspicions over his death, told the news portal, “Kya bolun ab? Jo ek vishwas tha woh bhi ab nahi hain. Kuch bolne ke jaisa rakha hi nahi hain chaar saal se ab kisi ne. (What should I say? There is no faith left. For the past four years, we have been left with nothing to say).”