Will Justice Loya Hold the Keys to Gujarat?


Will Justice Loya Hold the Keys to Gujarat?

Illustration: Palak Bansal/Arré

The Gujarat state elections are around the corner, and the action is getting hot. The BJP’s 22-year-long rule is facing a rising tide of anti-incumbency, and the skeletons are tumbling out of the closet. The ruling party is turning to sex tapes, temple visits, and dodgy statistics to gain traction, while trying to sidestep the issues that might sink their chances at the polling booths. The BJP’s elephant in the room, which could scupper their chances worse than any Arvind Kejriwal quote, is the curious case surrounding the death of CBI Justice Brijmohan Harikishan Loya.

If your reaction to that is “Loya who?” don’t blame yourself for being uninformed, because the newspapers haven’t exactly been fighting over the scoop. Loya is the judge who was chairing a case in which Amit Shah and several others were arrested with regards to allegations of the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin.

Gujarat, the state famed for its “development model” which catapulted Narendra Modi to Prime Ministership, has an illustrious history of fake encounters, especially during the time Modi was Chief Minister. But it’s the Sohrabuddin encounter, in which a 10,000 page charge-sheet was filed that continues to boggle the mind, and has returned to the limelight with a vengeance not unlike Katrina Kaif’s post-Ranbir bod, following The Caravan’s explosive claims about the death of Judge Loya.

In The Caravan story, Judge Loya’s family claims that he was under immense pressure about the case after the first judge was transferred, despite the Supreme Court saying that only one judge will preside over the case. According to the timeline, and we’re not implying anything here, the previous judge had repeatedly asked Amit Shah to appear in court but Shah never did. The judge was then transferred. Judge Loya then took over, and his family has claimed that he was offered a ₹100 crore bribe by Mumbai High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah to deliver a favourable verdict in the Sohrabuddin case.

Loya’s phone was returned to the family two days after his death, with the call records wiped.

Things go south when the details of the night of Loya’s death are brought into light. On that night, the report states, Loya was taken to a hospital near Nagpur after complaining of chest pain, and that’s where the problems start. A judge, who should have security, was taken alone in the middle of the night in a rickshaw to hospital without an ECG machine. His cause of death, “coronary artery insufficiency”, is one that he had no familial history of or vulnerability to. Most interestingly, a mysterious paternal cousin, which the family claims they don’t have in Nagpur, signed on Loya’s post-mortem paperwork. Finally, Loya’s phone was returned to the family two days after his death, with the call records wiped.

Indian Express and NDTV have come out with reports where two fellow judges have said that Loya was given an ECG, but the ECG report stated there are dated November 30th, which is one day before Loya’s ECG could’ve been conducted. NDTV’s Sreenivasan Jain has acknowledged the need for clarification on the conflicting dates. The whole affair gets murkier the longer you dwell on it.

The two conflicting narratives developing from the Loya case point to its potential for controversy. Right now, it’s too early to know which account is true, or where in between the truth lies. However, what we do know is that the Gujarat elections begin on December 9, and mass publication of the findings or the initiation of a probe could alter the arithmetic somewhat, to put it gently.

Gujarat, as everyone including the kids in the Modi Kaka ad, knows, is critical for 2019. If BJP loses Gujarat, their stronghold of 22 years will have begun to crumble. It would be like Disneyland evicting Mickey Mouse. And without their favourite “development model” pony to trot out come 2019, one can’t help but ask…what’s left in the bag?