Three judges of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court have recused themselves from hearing a petition filed by Advocate Satish Uke alleging that Judge BH Loya, who was presiding over the trial in the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was “poisoned” with a radioactive isotope.
Two days after Justice SB Shukre and Justice SM Modak recused from hearing the petition filed by Uke, the same petition came up before the bench of Justice PN Deshmukh and Justice Swapna Joshi on Wednesday, the court stated in its order: “Not before the bench of Justice Swapna Joshi”.
Earlier on Monday when the petition came up before them for hearing, Justices Shukre and Modak had stated: “Not before us”.
All the three judges have not assigned reasons for recusing themselves from hearing the Justice Loya death case.
It is being surmised in the legal circles that Justice Shukre’s decision to recuse himself from hearing the Justice Loya death case might be attributed to the fact that he had spoken to an English national newspaper earlier and stated among other things that there was nothing suspicious behind Judge Loya’s death and that doctors had done their best to save him.
Secondly, Justice Modak was staying with Judge Loya along with another Judge Shridhar Kulkarni at Ravi Bhavan Guest House in Nagpur’s civil lines area. Judge Loya was staying with them he had gone to Nagpur to attend his colleague’s daughter. However, the reason for Justice Swapna Joshi’s recusal from the case was not immediately known.
Incidentally, the names of Justices Shukre, Modak and Joshi feature in the reported sequence of events leading up to Loya’s death in Nagpur on December 1, 2014.
It may be recalled that Justice Loya (48) had died of a “heart attack” on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. At that time, Justice Loya was hearing the alleged Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case — in which BJP’s current national president Amit Shah was one of the accused. Justice Loya’s family had earlier raised several questions about the circumstances leading to Loya’s sudden death. There were also reports in a section of the media raising suspicions over the cause Judge Loya’s death.
In his petition before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, Advocate Uke has alleged BJP president Amit Shah, one of the key accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case who was discharged later, had met Ratan Kumar Sinha, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, during the latter’s (Shah’s) visit to Nagpur in March 2015 for three days.
Uke has alleged that all official records regarding this meeting have been wiped out. Uke has also alleged that the meeting between Sinha and Shah, “is an indication that Loya was ultimately poisoned with a radioactive isotope”.
In his petition, Advocate Uke has made a case for the safe custody of records in the controversial case of Judge Loya’s death.
Among other things, Uke has also alleged in his petition that his former colleagues, retired district judge Prakash Thombre and advocate Shrikant Khandalkar, had told him that Loya died due to poisoning from a radioactive isotope. Thombre and Khandalkar have died since in allegedly mysterious circumstances.
Uke has also alleged that before their death, Thombre and Khandalkar had informed him that records at Ravi Bhavan had been manipulated “to shield the real perpetrators of the crime”.
Uke has also stated in his petition that in the second week of October 2014, Loya had reached out to him through Thombre and Khandalkar saying that he was being “pressured” in the Sohrabuddin “fake encounter” case to give a judgement in favour of Shah. He has stated while he never met Loya, he had spoken to him on video call sometime in October 2014.
In that purported video call, Loya allegedly told Uke that Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was pressuring him to give a favourable outcome in the matter. Loya also allegedly told Uke about a certain Shubhanshu Joshi from Nagpur who would pay him the bribe.
Uke has stated in his petition, Loya had admitted to him that he had already written a draft judgment giving Shah a clean chit.
Uke stated that he along with Thombre and Khandalkar had travelled to Delhi with draft agreement and met advocate Prashant Bhushan who at that time had felt that there was no sufficient evidence to pursue the matter.