Justice Loya Death: Opposition MPs meet President, demand probe
New Delhi : Leaders of the Congress and 14 other opposition parties on Friday sought President Ram Nath Kovind's intervention for a Supreme Court-monitored investigation by an independent agency into the "suspicious" death of Judge B.H. Loya.
The leaders also submitted a memorandum to the President, saying that a FIR had not been registered on some earlier statements of Loya's family members who had talked about him facing "pressure".
The memorandum was signed by 114 MPs belonging to the Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, NCP, DMK, RJD, CPI-M, CPI, AAP, IUML, Kerala Congress-Mani, RSP, AIDUF, JD-S and JMM, besides the Congress.
They said that Loya's two alleged "confidants" have also subsequently died in mysterious circumstances.
The opposition leaders said that democracy was in "grave threat" and use of violence by fringe elements of a particular mindset "has spread fear among citizens".
"Efforts are also afoot to derail investigations and trials in sensitive criminal cases, thereby subverting the cause of justice," they said.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi told reporters later that several MPs feel that Loya had died in suspicious circumstances and so do the people of the country.
"We all owe it to the Judge and his family and to the system that the investigation should be done independently and effectively," Gandhi said.
Judge Loya, who was hearing the case of the alleged staged shootout death of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and two others, died in December 2014. Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah was an accused in the case but was later discharged.
The memorandum said the "recent revelations regarding Judge Brijgopal Harkishen Loya's death require investigation".
"Loya's father and sister have revealed that he was being pressurised by none other than the then Chief Justice of Bombay High Court to render a decision in favour of the accused. In return, the deceased Judge was offered Rs 100 crore and a flat or land in Mumbai," the memorandum said.
"Such statements disclose the commission of a cognisable offence for which lodging of a FIR is mandatory, a procedure consistent with the law as laid down by the Supreme Court. For the Bombay High Court not to have done so is a matter of grave concern," it added.
The memorandum said that before Judge Loya, Judge J.T. Utpat was the Special CBI Court presiding officer handling the case and he was suddenly transferred despite the apex court's direction that the assigned Judge will complete proceedings in the case.
It said that lawyer-activist Satish Uke had revealed that two of Judge Loya's "confidants" had subsequently died in mysterious circumstances.
"Shirkant Khandalkar, a public spirited lawyer in Nagpur, allegedly fell from a high-rise building in the district courts on November 29, 2015, and Prakash Thombre, a retired District Judge, allegedly died on May 16, 2016, after falling from an upper berth in a train."
"According to Uke, he had spoken to Judge Loya who also told him of the pressure being exerted on him to give a favourable verdict for the accused (in the Sohrabuddin case)," the leaders said, adding that "all this and relevant facts" are in the public domain.
The leaders said that if the lives of Judges and lawyers are jeopardised for doing their duty, then democracy is under grave threat.
"Recently, four most senior Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court also expressed the sentiment that (Indian) democracy is in peril," they said.
"What is required is a thorough investigation through an SIT of independent officers selected and monitored by the Supreme Court," the opposition MPs added.
The leaders said that the Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Investigation Agency should not be entrusted with the probe.
"Such a procedure will restore the credibility of institutions in the eyes of the public. We sincerely hope you will use your good offices to serve the cause of justice," they said.
The leaders accused the BJP-led government of "constant assault on democratic values and traditions" and "wanton misuse of investigating agencies to silence political opponents".
Asked for the reason for approaching the President while the case is pending in the apex court, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said there is no investigation by the court. "What is going on is a Public Interest Litigation. These matters cannot be decided through a PIL," he said.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that ahead of Loya's death in Nagpur, his police security was withdrawn.
"How can the security of a person -- a CBI Judge -- presiding over such a sensitive case be withdrawn? It creates a lot of suspicion," he said.