Raising serious questions about the circumstances of the death of judge B.H. Loya and noting that the case showed that members of judiciary as well as lawyers were under threat, the Congress on Wednesday demanded that the matter be probed by a Supreme Court-monitored SIT, which does not include any officer from the CBI or the NIA.
Addressing a press conference, senior Congress leader and eminent lawyer Kapil Sibal said his interactions with a whistle-blower in the case—lawyer Satish Uike—revealed that Loya was allegedly given a draft order to pass in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, and was under tremendous pressure to sign on it.
Sibal also said that two people Loya had confided in and who tried to help him died in mysterious circumstances.
Advocate Shrikant Khandalkar and retired district judge Prakash Thombre—who, it is claimed, Loya had sought help from, and who introduced him to Uike—are alleged to have received threats, and met with suspicious deaths within a year of Loya's death in 2014.
Uike, who was also present at the press conference, said he nearly escaped death when 500kg of construction material fell on his office and car, but he had just stepped out.
"If lawyers, who fight for justice, and judges who hear sensitive cases are under threat, then how will democracy be saved?" Sibal said.
He asked why the Bombay High Court did not take cognisance of the questions raised by Loya's sister regarding a bribe offer allegedly made to Loya by an ex-chief justice and get an FIR registered.
"Our demand is that the matter be referred to an independent SIT with no CBI officer and no NIA officer in it," Sibal said. “If the demand is not met, the Congress will launch a public agitation.” He said the death of not only Loya but also Khandalkar and Thombre must be investigated.
"This is what the four judges were saying when they talked about democracy being in peril," he said.
Judge Loya died reportedly due to a heart attack while he was visiting Nagpur on November 30, 2014. He was, at that time, special judge of a CBI court hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused.
The Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation seeking an independent probe into judge Loya's death.
It is learnt that the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court were concerned over the case being assigned to a junior judge in the Supreme Court—Justice Arun Mishra—since it is a politically sensitive matter.
The judge Loya case being assigned to Justice Mishra is said to have been the tipping point for the four judges to hold a press conference on January 12 to bring to public notice the issue of assigning of sensitive cases to selected benches.