Arguing that there were “suspicions” regarding the death of CBI special judge B H Loya, leaders of opposition parties, led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, on Friday met President Ram Nath Kovind, demanding an independent probe into his death by a special investigation team of officers “selected and monitored” by the Supreme Court.
Loya, who was the judge in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, died on December 1, 2014. The memorandum handed over to the President was signed by 114 MPs from 15 parties. “A large number of MPs both in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha… felt a sense of discomfort. They felt that a judge of the special CBI (court) has died under suspicious circumstances. And it is owed to that judge and his family that the investigation should be done properly and effectively. This feeling was expressed to us by different parties and large number of MPs… Two more suspicious deaths have happened,” said Rahul after meeting the President.
Rahul said the President gave them a positive response and assured them of looking into the matter. Asked why the Opposition approached the President when the matter was being heard by the Supreme Court, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, “There is no investigation by the Supreme Court. What is going on is a public interest litigation. These matters cannot be decided through a PIL.” He said an FIR should have been registered in 2014 when Loya’s sister had complained that he was under pressure.
The three-page memorandum also mentioned the death of “two of Judge Loya’s alleged confidants”, activist lawyer Shrikant Khandalkar and retired district judge Prakash Thombre. Rahul said, “We feel that there is suspicion in all these three cases. The country also feels it… three people have died… we feel there should be an independent probe.” Senior CPI leader D Raja said an independent probe is necessary to “restore the faith of the people in our system”.
The memorandum said the encounter case was heard by Judge J T Utpat before Judge Loya, “He (Utpat) allegedly reprimanded an accused for not appearing in his court and fixed June 26, 2014 for his appearance. On June 25, he was suddenly transferred, despite a direction by the Supreme Court in 2012 that the judge assigned the case will complete proceedings. For the High Court to have transferred the judge despite Supreme Court’s direction needs explanation.”
“We believe that if lives of judges and lawyers are jeopardised for doing their duty, then democracy is under grave threat….To uphold the majesty of law, we request you to intervene in the matter. What is required is a thorough investigation through an SIT of independent officers selected and monitored by the Supreme Court,” it said.
The parties made it clear that “neither the CBI nor the NIA, considering their recent track record should be entrusted with the investigation. Such a procedure will restore the credibility of institutions in the eyes of the public”.
Besides the Congress, the delegation had representatives of parties including Trinamool Congress, SP, NCP, DMK, RJD, CPM, CPI, AAP, JD(S) and JMM.