The truth has “its own way of catching up with people like Amit Shah”, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday, hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a batch of petitions that sought an independent inquiry into the death of special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya.
The top court said that petitions seeking an inquiry into Loya’s death were frivolous and without merit.
“Indians are deeply intelligent,” Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter. “Most Indians, including those in the BJP, instinctively understand the truth about Mr Amit Shah. The truth has its own way of catching up with people like him.”
When Loya died in 2014, he was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which Shah, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president, was an accused. Suspicions were raised about the circumstances of the judge’s death after The Caravan published a report in November 2017 with interviews with members of his family.
After the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday, the Congress said that many questions still remained unanswered. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party took on the Opposition party and accused it of targeting Shah.
Earlier in the day, the Congress said the top court’s verdict marks a sad day in India’s history. It has “left many questions unanswered”, said party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
“Today is a sad letter day in India’s history,” the party said in a statement. “Congress party was not a petitioner before the Supreme Court. Congress including 14 other political parties raised the issue before the President of India and in people’s court. For a vile BJP to misinterpret SC’s judgement to attack the Congress party reflects their jitteriness and frustration. We reject and condemn the malicious attempts of BJP to misinterpret Supreme Court judgment for finger-pointing.”
While some people on Twitter questioned how anyone can expect justice if even a CBI judge does not get it, others observed that in today’s “toxic and politically surcharged environment”, no one cares for facts and rules.
The executive editor of Caravan, Vinod K Jose, said the magazine stands by all of its stories. “The stories speak for itself. And we will follow journalistically the qns [questions] that continue to puzzle the circumstances of Judge Loya’s death,” he said.
‘Black day for the institution’
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners in the case, said the court rejected all the petitions despite the evidence presented in court. “It is a black day for the institution,” he told the media on Thursday. He also asked how seeking an independent probe into the “suspicious” death of a district judge can be politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the Bombay Lawyers Association, one of the petitioners, has decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict. “The petition is not politically motivated,” Ahmad Abdi, president of the association, told News18. “The Supreme Court has misunderstood our prayers. We were seeking the truth. There is no ulterior motive. We have nothing to do with any political party.”
‘Lowest point in Rahul Gandhi’s political career’
The BJP accused the Congress and its president, and other Opposition parties of trying to malign BJP President Amit Shah. It said Gandhi should apologise for his conspiracy to target Shah and the Indian judiciary.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the Congress had stooped to a new low and dragged “the judiciary in political slugfest”. “This is the lowest point in Rahul Gandhi’s political career,” Patra said. “The people who have been politicising the judiciary for their own motives, now stand exposed.”
Patra also described the public interest litigations that sought the independent investigation as “political interest litigations”. He added that petitions were used to settle political scores.
Other BJP leaders such as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, Union minister Jitendra Singh and Home Minister Rajnath Singh also welcomed the Supreme Court order and criticised Rahul Gandhi.
The party’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya said on Twitter, “Attempts to politicise Judge Loya’s death is not an isolated instance when Congress turned to judiciary in order to implicate and malign BJP President Amit Shah. It has happened before when UPA unleashed agencies in Ishrat Jahan, an LeT operative, case, which too collapsed!”
‘No question of foul death’
Prashant Rathi, the doctor who had received Loya’s body in Nagpur, said he was relieved by the top court’s order. “There was a time when my role was doubted,” he told ANI. “There should be no doubts and confusions after the verdict.”
Joint Police Commissioner of Nagpur Shivaji Bodkhe said the “petitions were wrong as they were unaware of the truth”. The investigation was done professionally by the Nagpur Police and all the evidence was presented in court, he said.
Former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi criticised the petitioners and said they mainly wanted to attack “senior functionaries of the current government”. There was no question of foul play in the death, he said, adding that the petitions were about personal interest and not public interest.
At the time of his death on December 1, 2014, Loya was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, in which Amit Shah was an accused. Suspicions were raised on whether Loya’s death was natural after The Caravan published a report in November 2017, in which members of the judge’s family raised a number of questions about the circumstances of his death and claimed that he had been under pressure at the time to deliver a “favourable judgement”.
Over the course of the last five months, the Caravan has published nearly two dozen reports, many of which have pointed to inconsistencies in the official record on Loya’s death.