The All India People’s Forum (AIPF) held a public meeting on January 15 at Delhi on the ‘Suspicious Death of a Judge: Implications for Democracy’, in which questions around the death of Judge Loya were raised. The meeting was attended by several hundred people.
Gautam Mody of NTUI introduced the meeting, and explained the urgent need to break the silence on the issue and raise the questions forcefully. Kavita Krishnan of CPI(ML) introduced the speakers and conducted the meeting.
The first speaker was Niranjan Takle, the journalist whose investigative report in the Caravan first broke the story of the grave issues surrounding the Judge’s death. Niranjan Takle said that journalists and citizxens must fearlessly ask questions and listen to questions – even if those in power order us to shut our eyes, ears, and mouths to questions. As a journalist, he said, it was his job to ‘tell the truth and shame the devil.”
Uday Gaware, former President of the Latur Bar Association and a close friend of Loya’s, said that Loya’s friends had begun suspecting a “premeditated murder” since the very day of his funeral in Latur. “If the worshippers of the pen sleep, then worshippers of the nation will sell off the country. Loya embraced death but never sold his integrity,” Gaware said. He added, “Judge MB Gosavi replaced Loya withn 15 days of his death, and within 15 days, he read the 10,000-page CBI chargesheet and discharged the president of a party. This case (Sohrabuddin encounter case) was going on from 2005, but the new judge understood the case within 15 days?” He also asked why Supreme Court judges were being criticised for addressing the Press but the two Judges who spoke to newspapers to try and belie Takle’s story about Loya’s death are not being similarly criticised. He said “If probes take place today whether Mahatma Gandhi died of three bullets or four, decades after his murder, why can’t a death that took place a mere three years ago be probed?”
The Caravan’s political editor, Hartosh Bal, said that the Loya story went to the heart of the rot of the current regime. He said that corruption during the UPA regime involved three of the four pillars of democracy – legislature, executive and media; communal hatred and corruption during the NDA regime involves all the four pillars, including the judiciary. He ended by saying that the first person to seek an impartial probe into the Loya matter ought to be Amit Shah himself.
Former judge of the Bombay High Court, Justice BG Kolse Patil, said that there was an atmosphere of fear – if the truth about Loya’s death were not probed, every judge would remain in fear that he too could be killed if he refused a bribe.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising said that the key question was “Is the executive interfering with the functioning of the judiciary?”. She said that the judiciary can collapse from within but only if the government interferes in its functioning. She compared the judges’ Press Conference to the resignation of Supreme Court judges during the Emergency, and said that it is important today that judges do not resign but instead alert the people of the country about the rot in the judiciary.
John Dayal, on behalf of AIPF, summed up the concerns of people and thanked all those who helped make the meeting a success.