Sohrabuddin encounter: new allegations of bribe offer, Judge's sudden death

The brother of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was shot by the Gujarat Police in an allegedly fake encounter in November 2005, wrote to former Bombay High Court judge Mohit Shah in 2014 asking for a probe into the sudden death of judge B H Loya, who was hearing the encounter case. However, he received no response from Shah, said a report in the Mumbai Mirror today.

Special CBI judge Loya died in Nagpur on 30 November, 2014, where he was visiting to attend a colleague's daughter's wedding. He was said to have suffered a heart attack, but his family now claims the circumstances of his death were murky, according to reports first carried by The Caravan.

At the time the incident occurred, Loya had been hearing the discharge petition filed by key accused in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party party president Amit Shah. Within a month of Loya's death, his successor judge M B Gosavi cleared Shah of all charges, saying the BJP chief was implicated due to "political reasons".

Following this, the Mumbai Mirror report said, Shorabuddin's brother Rubabuddin wrote to Mohit Shah asking if Loya's death was entirely due to natural causes, and if there was any pressure on Loya and his family.

"Sir, as you are aware, this is an extremely sensitive matter and many of the accused are police officers and high-level politicians ... I would sincerely request you to institute an inquiry into the matter of the death of Judge B H Loya, to find out whether it was a natural death. Also, whether he was under any kind of pressure from anyone. Hence it is extremely important to conduct an impartial and fair inquiry. I hope and pray that an independent and time- bound inquiry under the monitoring of this court is conducted," the letter said.

Firstpost rang Justice Shah's son Sahil to see if the retired judge wished to issue a statement, but was told he did not interact with the media.

The Caravan report said Loya's sister Anuradha Biyani and father Harkishan claimed that the CBI judge was offered a bribe of Rs100 crore in return for a "favourable judgment".

Loya was appointed to the special CBI court in June 2014 after his predecessor J T Utpat was transferred within weeks of reprimanding Amit Shah for constantly seeking exemptions from appearing in court.

Loya himself had initially allowed Shah not to show up. But when the BJP leader was in Mumbai not far from the court and still did not appear, Loya on 31 October 2014 asked why Shah was not in court, and set the next hearing for 15 December 2014. On 1 December Loya was dead. His family was told that he had suffered a heart attack while travelling for a wedding.

His family has alleged in The Caravan article that the circumstances of his death were murky, and they were told at the time not to make their concerns public. They mention details that have given them cause for suspicion, from the time of death to the condition of Loya's body to the fact that his mobile phone was returned to them two days later by a worker from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The Caravan has even posted videos of the family making charges of corruption against a senior member of the judiciary. According to The Caravan, the family asked for an inquiry commission to investigate Loya's death, but nothing came of this.

According to Biyani, Mohit Shah "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".

According to Biyani, "My brother was offered a bribe of 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment.

Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were allegedly abducted by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad from Hyderabad on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra. He was killed in an alleged fake encounter near Gandhinagar in November 2005, after which his wife disappeared.

Tulsiram Prajapati, an aide of Sheikh and an eyewitness to the encounter, was allegedly killed by police at Chapri village in Gujarats Banaskantha district in December 2006.

The Sohrabuddin killing case was transferred to Mumbai in September 2012 on the request of the CBI for a fair trial.