114 Opposition MPs Petition President For SIT Probe Into Judge Loya's Death

114 Opposition MPs Petition President For SIT Probe Into Judge Loya

A delegation of MPs from Congress, CPM and 13 other opposition parties, on Friday, submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind demanding a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into CBI Special Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya’s death.

The memorandum, signed by 114 Parliamentarians, drew the President's attention to the "Government's constant assault on out democratic values and traditions since it assumed power in 2014."

"The use of violence by fringe elements of a particular mindset has spread fear amongst our citizens. The wanton misuse of investigating agencies to silence political opponents is rampant. Efforts are also afoot to derail investigations and trials in sensitive criminal cases thereby subverting the cause of justice," it added.

While highlighting the circumstances surrounding Judge Loya's death, the memorandum also referred to the claims made by Congress leaders Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and Randeep Surjewala during a recent press conference.

Mr. Sibal had then raised suspicions regarding the death of two of Judge Loya's associates- Advocate Shrikant Khandalkar and retired District Judge Prakash Thombre. He had alleged that Judge Loya had confided in both of them regarding the pressure he was facing to exonerate the accused in the Sohrabuddin murder case. Subsequently, both Mr. Khandalkar and Mr. Thombre died mysterious deaths, Mr. Sibal had said.

Emphasizing on the foul play in Judge Loya and his confidants' death, the memorandum demanded, "We believe that if lives of judges and lawyers are jeopardized for doing their duty, then democracy is under grave threat. Recently, four senior most puisne judges of the Supreme Court also expressed the sentiment that democracy was in peril.

To uphold the majesty of law, we request you to intervene in the matter. What is required is a thorough investigation through an SIT of an independent officers selected and monitored by the Supreme Court. Neither the CBI nor the NIA, considering their track record should be entrusted with the investigation. Such a procedure will restore the credibility of institutions in the eyes of the public. We sincerely hope you will use you good offices to serve the cause of justice."

The Caravan report

A Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar is currently hearing two petitions and several Intervention Applications demanding an independent probe into Judge Loya's death. You may read an account of the hearing here.

The allegations first appeared in two reports by The Caravan Magazine, which cited interviews with Judge Loya’s relatives– his sister Anuradha Biyani, niece Nupur Balaprasad Biyani and father Harkishan. According to the magazine, Judge Loya’s wife Sharmila and son Anuj declined to speak since they feared for their lives.

As per the article, Judge Loya was in Nagpur for the 30 November, 2014 wedding of the daughter of  another sitting Judge at the Mumbai Sessions Court, Swapna Joshi. On 1 December, his family members received calls informing them about his demise after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.

The investigative report by Mr. Niranjan Takle points out glaring inconsistencies in the cardiac arrest story. It highlights inconsistencies in the reported account of the death. There were large variations in the precise time of his death and that fact that Judge Loya’s phone was wiped clean of all data before it was returned to the family. The Judge’s postmortem report was also allegedly signed by “maiyatacha chulatbhau”, or paternal cousin, when his family says there is no such person in the family. Further, his family members had noticed blood on his clothes.

Another article had alleged that Justice Mohit Shah had offered Judge Loya Rs. 100 crore for a judgment in favor of Mr. Amit Shah. The article had quote the Judge’s sister, who claimed that Justice Shah would “would call him late at night to meet in civil dress and pressure him to issue the judgment as soon as possible and to ensure that it is a positive judgment.

My brother was offered a bribe of 100 crore in return for a favorable judgment. Mohit Shah, the chief justice, made the offer himself.“

Shortly after Judge Loya’s death, a new Judge, M.B. Gosavi had discharged Mr. Amit Shah, after hearing the parties for three days. The article goes on to question the manner in which the trial took place, asserting that it had violated a September 2012 Supreme Court order, that the Sohrabuddin trial “should be conducted from beginning to end by the same officer”.