NEW DELHI : A public meeting organized by AIPF (All India People’s Forum), which is a CPI-ML unit, at ISI (Indian Social Institute) saw stakeholders coming together to demand a fair probe in the death of Justice B.H. Loya. Speaker after speaker stressed on judicial crisis and the atmosphere of fear in country.

Taking a potshot at TV channels like Republic and Times Now in a not-so-hidden-barb, Kavita Krishnan, CPI-ML, made it clear in her introductory remark that she “… doesn’t believe in sensationalism unlike the TV channels which stoke fire.” Linking the death of Justice Loya with the press conference of four senior SC Judges, she stressed on the need to restore faith in democratic institutions.

What supposedly was a public meeting turned out to be a press conference with the audience largely of reporters and camera crews. It, however, was the panel of speakers that made the event significant, more so in light of the recent press conference of 21-year-old Anuj Loya, son of deceased Judge Loya where he stated that his father had died a natural death. Journalist Niranjan Takle, lawyer Indira Jaising, Advocate Uday Gaware (close friend of Judge Loya), Justice (Retd.) B.G. Kolse Patil (social activist) and Hartosh Bal (Political Editor at The Caravan) were the panelists at this meeting.

Takle addressed the accusation against him, “kuch log kehne lage ki Niranjan dar gaya kyuki mera phone band tha. Darta toh story hi nhi karta” (Some people said that Niranjan was afraid as his phone was switched off. Would not have done the story in the first place if I felt scared). Sharing the backdrop of the story that he broke, Takle recounted the first meeting with Loya’s niece Nupur in Pune who came with a common friend to the hotel where he was staying. Niranjan Takle asked her to convince her mother for a video interview, which would enhance the story.

Anuradha Biyani, her mother and Justice Loya’s sister, agreed to talk though she clearly was apprehensive of safety. She was also worried about their children- Apurva and Anuj. Takle said he also went to meet Anuj Loya in the course of his investigation but wasn’t able to extract anything of importance as he was not forthcoming. Instead Anuj Loya’s grandfather, Takle said, had told him that the young man “Bahut dara hua hai, kisi pe bharosa nahi karta” (He is so afraid that doesn’t seem to trust anyone).

Niranjan Takle had filed the story with the publication that he earlier worked with in February 201. He said in October he received a negative from the editors and decided to quit the organization in November 2017. At The Caravan, the story was published only after rigorous fact-finding and legal vetting he said. As he said this was not the first time that he has found himself in the middle of a storm, having earlier faced a defamatory suit for writing a piece on RSS ideologue V.D.Savarkar.

Advocate Uday Gaware an old friend and colleague of Brij Gopal Loya-the advocate,recounted memories of shared experiences with Justice Loya. “Latur me sabse milte the. Shaadi me do din sath rahe” (He used to meet everyone in Latur and had spent two days at my wedding), he said. For him, Justice Loya’s death was a “socha-samjha murder” (a planned murder). As former president of Latur Bar Association, Gaware led a march of lawyers to the office of the district collector, to submit a memorandum seeking a probe into the death of the judge. He also maintained that the role of Ishwar Baheti (RSS worker) who gave the belongings of the deceased judge to family members requires further investigation.

“Loya story reminded me of the other story that I did- Radia Tapes”. For Hartosh Bal who played a role in exposing Radia Tapes at Open magazine and was forced to resign later, the Loya story deals with the present rot just as the Radia tapes reflected a similar decay in the UPA government.

Bal flagged several points that raised suspicion about Justice Loya’s death. Many of these have been flagged in The Caravan report. In this context, for him the silence of BJP President Amit Shah was surprising as “[he] should be the first person who should step forward and actually go to the Supreme Court and say that there should be an impartial probe…”

Addressing the gathering, Retd. Justice B. G. Kolse Patil said that Justice JT Utpat, the judge who had reprimanded Amit Shah for seeking exemption from appearing in court and was transferred refused to respond to his question about his transfer and possible motive behind the move. Patil also demanded a transparent enquiry in the death of Judge Loya and labelled the press conference of four senior Supreme Court judges a “golden day in the history of judiciary.” For Patil, Loya’s case is an opportunity for the judiciary to prove its transparency.

Senior Supreme Court advocate Indira Jaising argued that the judiciary can collapse from within but only if the government is “willing to let it collapse”. It is for this reason that the question of “executive interference” in the functioning of judiciary becomes a pertinent question, added Jaising. She also commended the four senior Supreme Court judges for speaking out saying that they “have done us a favor and people with vested interest are condemning these four Judges.” Rejecting the allegation of being a UPA stooge, she demanded a totally impartial and independent enquiry conducted by a CBI Division Bench as the organisation “isn’t a monolith and there are people within CBI who want to do their duty.”