The Sohrabuddin Encounter, Justice Loya and the Media Black Out
Why is the media silent on such a major story?
NEW DELHI: There are some stories that do not go away easily. And keep resurfacing as justice is required to be done.
The Sorabuddin Sheikh case is one such story, where the cover up has been almost as sensational as the encounter with the Caravan investigation now raising serious questions about the death of the CBI special judge BH Loya in December 2014. Judge Loya waspresiding over the high profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter killing, in which BJP president Amit Shah was the prime accused. And now as his family members have told The Caravan, there was a bribe effort by a fellow judge to drop the case, and there was much they found not right about Loyla’s sudden death in Nagpur with a hasty postmortem, and blood stains on his shirt being just part of the story.
What was the case becomes important to understand the cover-up and perhaps, if a judicial probe is ever appointed as demanded now by the CPI(M), the circumstances leading to Judge Loyla’s sudden death. The Sohrabuddin encounter case, incidentally, was the only one he was presiding over those days.
On November 26, 2005 a man in his mid-thirties was guned down by the Gujart police who claimed that he was a Lashkar e Tayaba operative who was in the state to execute a plan to kill a high profile politician. The reference was to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. And of course as is the wont of cops, they shot him in self defence when he did not stop the bike even when they ordered him to. Encounters had become fairly common then as these are now becoming increasingly common in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Sohrabuddin’s brother challenged the death with a letter to the then Chief Justice of India also expressing worry that Kauser bi (Sohrabuddin’s wife) had gone missing. To cut a long story short, a journalist Prashant Dayal---unconventional and with good contacts---broke the story that the couple were killed in cold blood. And that the Gujarat cops had arrested the two, along with Tulsiram Prajapati in 2005 on November 22, and then killed Sohrabuddin in the fake encounter four days later. Sohrabuddin’s brother had spoken to this reporter later and while terrified made it clear that he would fight for justice. Activist Mukul Sinha who was following the case actively in and out of court said that Kauser bi had refused to buy peace with the cops led by DIG Vanzara and SP Rajkumar Pandyan. And she was reportedly killed in the office itself.
A terrified Prajapati wrote to the National Human Rights Commission, spoke of the threat to his life but despite his many precautions he too was killed in yet another encounter in December 2006. This was just when he was to have been questioned by the special investigation team.
The case moved through the courts, becoming murkier and more sinister with the days and the weeks.The CBI probe nmed Amit Shah as an accused for these custody murders. Vanzara went into jail along with 30 odd other cops. He wrote of Modi as “god” and described himself as a “nationalist Hindu” and got a huge welcome after his release from jail on bail two years ago.
Loyla’s death followed his appointment as the Judge of the CBI trial court. His predecessor had been transferred as he pulled up Shah for not appearing before the court. Loyla did the same and now three years after he died, his family has raised a number of questions that constitute the Caravan story. Significantly, Loyla’s successor MB Gosavi was more accomodating and he discharged Shah agreeing with the argument that he had been framed by the CBI, and was not involved. All others involved in the case were also discharged by the court with the cops like Pandey being reinstated even though he was on bail, and had not been acquitted.
Loyla was clearly not as receptive during his term with the Caravan report quoting his family as saying that he had been approached by judge Mohit Shah with an offer of money to drop the case. The article quotes Loya’s sister Anuradha Biyani as saying that Mohit Shah J would exert pressure on her brother for a favourable verdict saying, “he would call him late at night to meet in civil dress and pressure him to issue the judgment as soon as possible and to ensure that it is a positive judgment.
My brother was offered a bribe of 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment. Mohit Shah, the chief justice, made the offer himself.”
Loya’s son Anuj, according to the story, had written a letter referring to Mohit Shah J,
“I asked him to set up an enquiry commission for dad’s death. I fear that to stop us from doing anything against them, they can harm anyone of our family members. There is threat to our lives…if anything happens to me or my family, chief justice Mohit Shah and others involved in the conspiracy will be responsible.”
In complete capitulation the so called national media has decided that the strong interviews given by the Judge’s direct family members to the Caravan about his death in Nagpur do not constitute news, as it concerns Shah whose clout is unquestionable. The story, however, has created waves outside the media with the CPI(M) now issuing a statement asking for a judicial probe. “The family members of Justice Loya have alleged that attempts were made to bribe and intimidate him during the course of the trial. The CPI(M) demands that a high-level judicial enquiry be instituted immediately to look into this whole affair,” the statement said. Former Justice AP Shah said that the report in Caravan raised issues that required a judicial probe to unearth the facts, and clear the air.
There is complete silence from the BJP to the report. Amit Shah has not said a word on the issue.