Brijgopal Harkishen Loya , a judge of a CBI Special Court in Mumbai, was young at 48 years of age , healthy and played Table tennis every day. He was assigned the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case after CBI special judge Utpat was transferred to Pune in disregard of the Supreme Court’s direction that the same judge should hear the case from the beginning to the end. And one of the first dilemmas he faced was a discharge petition filed by one of the accused, Amit Anilbhai Shah, who happened to be BJP’s national president.
Discharge petitions are rarely entertained in criminal cases by Indian courts. The argument being that the trial must run through it course, all the evidence first examined and witnesses cross examined before anyone is given a clean chit. But as reported in the Caravan, Loya had confided to family and friends that he was under pressure to discharge Amit Shah and that too by the end of December, 2015. These accounts suggested that he was offered a sum of Rs 100 Crore and a flat in Mumbai to do so.
This was the backdrop when Loya was persuaded to travel to Nagpur on November 29, 2015 to attend the wedding of the daughter of another judge. He arrived in Nagpur by train the next day with two colleagues and checked into Ravi Nivas, the VIP guesthouse. At 11 pm that night he returned from the reception and spoke to his wife and son for 40 minutes. At some point after midnight, he complained of uneasiness, was taken to an orthopaedic hospital and by the time he was taken to a hospital that could treat cardiac cases, he had died.
The timing, the post-mortem, transporting the body to his native village in Latur and not to Mumbai, the body returned in the clothes he was wearing ( clothes are removed before post-mortem), the failure of the two judges accompanying him to turn up at Latur and a RSS worker in Latur returning the judge’s mobile to the family, with all messages etc deleted, three days after his death—were some of the concerns flagged by the family to Niranjan Takle, the journalist who wrote the story for Caravan.
What was even more remarkable was the speed with which Amit Shah was discharged by judge Loya’s successor. He took over the hearing in the middle of December, 2015, heard arguments for two days and acquitted Shah of all charges on December 30, 2015. The CBI did not appeal against the order.
Amit Shah may or may not have had anything to do with the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh or in the mysterious death of judge Loya. But the speed and the manner in which he was discharged was unusual and, therefore, merits not just an independent but a public inquiry.