National News

Judge Loya death: Congress demands special investigation team probe monitored by Supreme Court

Pointing to ‘mysterious’ deaths of two of Loya’s friends and discrepancies in medical reports, the Congress said ‘circumstances are telling their own story’.

Two days before the Supreme Court hears petitions regarding the death of special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, the Congress raised more questions about Loya’s death and demanded a special investigation team inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court.

The top court will hear pleas in the case on Friday.

At a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, flanked by Salman Khurshid, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala and the party’s legal head Vivek Tankha, said if the special investigation team is not formed, “we will go to the nation, we will go to every village”.

When Loya died in December 2014, he was presiding over a special CBI court in Mumbai that was hearing a case about the extrajudicial murder by the Gujarat Police of alleged extortionist Sohrabuddin Sheikh. BJP President Amit Shah was among the accused in the case. He was the home minister of Gujarat when the alleged fake encounter took place. In November, the Caravan magazine made some startling revelations that raised doubts on whether Loya’s death was natural.

What the Congress said on Wednesday

Congress leader Sibal pointed to the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death, saying, “We can’t say anything about his death, but the circumstances are telling their own story.”

On the deaths of Loya’ friends: Sibal first raised questions about the “unexplained deaths” of lawyer-activist Shrikant Khandalkar and retired judge Prakash Thombre – both of whom Loya is said to have confided in about the pressure he was facing to exonerate the accused in the case.

Khandalkar’s body was found behind a courthouse in Nagpur in November 2015, Sibal said, adding that Khandalkar had been getting threats. In May 2016, Thombre died “suspiciously while travelling in train from Nagpur to Bangalore”, Sibal said.

The Congress said Thombre and Khandalkar had helped Loya get in touch with another Nagpur lawyer and whistleblower Satish Uke. Loya told Uke the names of the people who were pressuring him, the Congress claimed.

On the post-mortem report: Uke, who was also present at Wednesday’s press conference, alleged that Loya’s post-mortem report was “manipulated”. Pointing to the entries in the register of the hospital where Loya’s post-mortem was done, Uke said the same doctor seems to have conducted two examinations simultaneously.

The Congress claimed Uke also received several death threats, and there was at least one attempt on his life in June 2016.

Sibal also said medical papers show Loya was admitted to the Meditrina hospital in Nagpur at 6.27 am but was declared dead at 6.15 am. He said records show Loya was being treated till 8.23 am.

On Loya’s security: The Congress also spoke about a reply it received to an Right to Information request. Sibal said the Mumbai police withdrew judge Loya’s security a week before his death.

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