Three judges of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court—Justice SB Shukre, Justice SM Modak and Justice Swapna Joshi—have recused themselves from hearing Advocate Satish Uke’s petition alleging that Judge BH Loya, presiding over the Sohrabuddin trial, was poisoned with a radioactive isotope.
As reported earlier, when Uke’s petition came up before the division bench of Justices SB Shukre and SM Modak on November 26, they simply stated in the order “Not before us”. On Wednesday, the same petition came up before the bench of Justice PN Deshmukh and Justice Swapna Joshi and the court stated in its order: “Not before the bench of Justice Swapna Joshi”.
Uke’s petition alleged that BJP president Amit Shah, one of the main accused in the Sohrabuddin case who was discharged later, had met with Ratan Kumar Sinha, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, during Shah’s visit to Nagpur in March 2015 for three days. Uke alleged that all official records regarding this meeting have been wiped out. Uke had alleged that according to him, this meeting is an indication that Loya was ultimately poisoned with a radioactive isotope. Uke also said that he had spoken to Judge Loya in a video call after his colleagues Khandalkar and Thombre informed him that the judge wanted to talk to him. According to Uke, Judge Loya said he was threatened by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis regarding the Sohrabuddin case.
Reason for recusal
Evidently, the reasons for these recusals have not been recorded. However, Justice Shukre had spoken to The Indian Express and stated that there was nothing suspicious about Judge Loya’s death and that the doctors tried their best to save him but could not succeed. This clearly establishes Justice Shukre's position in the matter hence, his recusal is only fair.
On the other hand, Justice SM Modak was staying with Judge Loya along with another Judge Shridhar Kulkarni at Ravi Bhavan Guest House in Nagpur’s civil lines area.
Importantly, all of the three judges were there to attend the wedding and reception of fellow Judge (now Justice) Swapna Joshi’s daughter on November 30, 2014. The very next day at 4 am, Judge Loya is said to have suffered a heart attack.
Thus, all three judges in some way were working in close proximity with Judge Loya and were in Nagpur at the time of Judge Loya's death.