Mysterious death of judge in Sohrabuddin case

By The IST News Network

Mr. Brijgopal Harikrishan Loya presiding over the proceedings in a case related to Sohrabuddin killing, apparently died of a heart attack and the family knew something was not right as the circumstances pointed to a different tale. On the morning of 1 December 2014, the family of 48-year-old Justice  Loya, the judge presiding over the Central Bureau of Investigation special court in Mumbai, was informed that he had died in Nagpur, where he had travelled for a colleague’s daughter’s wedding.

Loya had been hearing one of the most high-profile cases in the country, involving the allegedly staged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in 2005. The prime accused in the case was Amit Shah—Gujarat’s minister of state for home at the time of Sohrabuddin’s killing, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president at the time of Loya’s death. The media reported that the judge had died of a heart attack.

At 11 pm on 30 November 2014, from Nagpur, Loya phoned his wife, Sharmila, using his mobile phone. Over around 40 minutes, he described to her his busy schedule through the day. Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding of the daughter of a fellow judge, Sapna Joshi. Initially he had not intended to go, but two of his fellow judges had insisted that he accompany them. Loya told his wife that he had attended the wedding, and later attended a reception. He also enquired about his son, Anuj. He said that he was staying at Ravi Bhavan, a government guest house for VIPs in Nagpur’s Civil Lines locality, along with the judges he had accompanied to Nagpur

A report by Niranjan Takle in the Caravan magazine points to suspicious circumstances under which the 48 years old judge died. There has been no investigation into the death  as apparently the family was told to keep quiet but the post-mortem report gave heart attack as the reason of death but the family members claim head injury marks and blood on body. Even the judges who accompanied Loya were silent on the incident or absent.

Apart from that there was reportedly discrepancy in the time of death and post-mortem. Loya’s sister, Anuradha Biyani is a doctor herself and the facts could not be hidden from her.  Loya, a high profile VIP was staying in a Government guest house was transported ‘in an auto rickshaw’ in the dead of night when it is difficult to get an auto rickshaw. Was this pre-arranged or just a co-incidence?

Some deeply disturbing questions emerged about Loya’s death: questions about inconsistencies in the reported account of the death; about the procedures followed after his death; and about the condition of the judge’s body when it was handed over to the family. Though the family asked for an inquiry commission to probe Loya’s death, none was ever set up, writes Takle.

The Sohrabuddin case was the only one that Loya was hearing at the time of his death, and was one of the most carefully watched cases then underway in the country. In 2012, the Supreme Court had ordered that the trial in the case be shifted from Gujarat to Maharashtra, stating that it was “convinced that in order to preserve the integrity of the trial it is necessary to shift it outside the State.” The Supreme Court had also ordered that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish. But, in violation of this order, JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, was transferred from the CBI special court in mid 2014, and replaced by Loya. Loya’s death on 1 December was reported only in a few routine news articles the next day, and did not attract significant media attention.

The Indian Express, while reporting that Loya had “died of a heart attack” noted, “Sources close to him said that Loya had sound medical history.” The media attention picked up briefly on 3 December, when MPs of the Trinamool Congress staged a protest outside the parliament, where the winter session was under way, to demand an inquiry into Loya’s death. The next day, Sohrabuddin’s brother, Rubabuddin, wrote a letter to the CBI, expressing his shock at Loya’s death.

Nothing came of the MPs’ protests, or Rubabuddin’s letter. No follow-up stories appeared on the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death.

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About Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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