Monday, 30th October 2017

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Glare on Shah case judge death

Several rights activists have demanded a judicial probe into the 2014 death of a judge hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, citing reports in The Caravan magazine website in which the judge's family has alleged foul play.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 23.11.17
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B.H. Loya

New Delhi: Several rights activists have demanded a judicial probe into the 2014 death of a judge hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, citing reports in The Caravan magazine website in which the judge's family has alleged foul play.

BJP chief Amit Shah, who was then Gujarat home minister, was an accused in the case. Sohrabuddin, accused of extortion and smuggling, died in police custody in 2005.

The family of Justice B.H. Loya had alleged that the CBI court judge had been offered a bribe of Rs 100 crore by a judge for a "favourable judgment".

At a news conference of the NGO Act Now For Harmony and Democracy at the Indian Women's Press Corps here on Wednesday, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand said: "The majesty of the courts is now suspect.... The family (of Loya) is accusing a... judge of trying to bribe a judge. Can the Supreme Court ignore this allegation? The... judge ignored a letter from Justice Loya's son demanding a probe."

Justice Loya, a judge of the special CBI court in Mumbai, allegedly died after suffering cardiac arrest in Nagpur late on the night of November 30, 2014. He was in Nagpur for a wedding.

Amit Shah, who had briefly been in jail in the Sohrabuddin case, was acquitted a month after Justice Loya's death.

Professor Apoorvanand said: "My rights are safe if our institutions work properly. This incident puts the working of the courts in doubt.... Judges who work independently are under threat. The family (of Justice Loya) is unsafe and must be given security."

Both Amit Shah and the judge the family has named, who retired in 2015, are yet to respond to the claims made in the report published in caravanmagazine.in.

The Caravan's political editor, Hartosh Bal, said the reports raised several questions, including:

• Why was the family not informed when Justice Loya was taken to hospital?

• Why were they not informed as soon as he died?

• Why were they not asked for approval for a post-mortem, or informed that one was to be performed, before the procedure was carried out?

• Who recommended the post-mortem and why?

• What was suspicious about Justice Loya's death that a post-mortem was recommended?

• Why was he taken to hospital from a VIP guest house in an autorickshaw when the nearest auto stand was 2km away?

• Were there no cars available at the VIP guest house, which regularly hosts ministers, IAS and IPS officers and judges?

• Why was he taken to an "obscure" private hospital that did not have a working ECG machine?

• The family was first informed about Justice Loya's death at 5am, so why does the post-mortem report mention the time of death as 6.15am?

• Why was the judge's phone returned to the family three days after his death?

• Why were there no call records and messages in the phone that was returned?

• Why was the phone returned by an RSS member, and not the police?

• According to Justice Loya's family, there were bloodstains on the judge's shirt. How is that possible if he died of heart attack?

A statement issued by The Caravan on Wednesday said: "According to the judge's sister, Anuradha Biyani, a medical doctor in government service in Maharashtra: 'My brother was offered a bribe of (Rs) 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment....'"

The Caravan website had reported that the judge had told Justice Loya that "if the judgment is delivered before 30 December, it won't be under focus at all because at the same time, there was going to be another explosive story which would ensure that people would not take notice of this".

"On 30 December, around one month after Loya's death, Amit Shah was discharged. The same day, news of MS Dhoni's retirement from Test cricket dominated television screens across the country. As Biyani recounted: 'There was just a ticker at the bottom which said: Amit Shah not guilty. Amit Shah not guilty.'"