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'CBI judge murdered, then common man surely unsafe'

Friday, December 08, 2017
By Dev Kotak. Photograph By Azad Shrivastav

Lone protestor vows to fight on, demands CBI probe

It is no surprise that his campaign and silent protests have been garnering a lukewarm response as RTI activist Ashok Pai demands a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into the death of one of the most high-profile cases, that of Special Judge Brijmohan Harikishan Loya.

The CBI judge had been presiding in a Special CBI court in Mumbai, hearing the only case of an alleged extra-judicial murder of alleged extortionist Sohrabuddin Sheikh by the Gujarat police, in which Bharatiya Janata Party president, Amit Shah was one of the key accused. The party's chief whip was Minister of State (MoS) for Home in Gujarat when the fake encounter allegedly took place.

Loya’s family (his sister and his father) told a popular magazine that he had gone to Nagpur for a colleague’s daughter’s wedding on November 30, 2014, when he apparently fell ill suddenly and died of a heart attack.    

Pai, who is a publisher of a pharmaceutical magazine for chemists (Offer To Chemist) has started a campaign seeking an impartial probe into the death of the senior judge. The 52-year-old, in his latest campaign, intended to protest outside the Bombay High Court (HC), but had been denied permission.

“I got a call from the Senior Inspector of the Azad maidan Police Station a few times who told me that I am not allowed to protest anywhere in South Bombay as there is a High Court order too restraining protests. The only place allowing me to hold the peaceful protest is Azad Maidan. So I decided to change my venue to Churchgate Station, but that's when the inspector came and took me and three others to the police station. After three hours of waiting, they booked me and let us go to the maidan,” said Pai.

He feels that the reason for police intervention could be because of the nature of this matter and there could be pressure from higher-ups, who are also feeling the heat and have something to fear about.

'Previously when I protested at other sites too (Churchgate), I was not required to take any permission. In fact, I don't even know how the police found out that we had been planning to protest outside the High Court. They were worried. They showed me the message I sent to the media about our protest plans,” he said.

As per initial plans, the quinquagenarian wanted to mainly target and distribute pamphlets to advocates as he thinks that those from the late Justice's fraternity would be moved and this would give an impetus to the case. But the venue was out of reach for him.

Till now, the people who have come out and joined him have been people writing to him on social media and are people unknown to him. But they are all still there with him. According to the RTI activist, these are the people who want a fair trial and a probe by the premier investigation agency as they still rally for justice, wondering why people yet don't join him despite it being a harmless, non-morcha driven agitation.

As a lone voice of the protest, he is miffed and unhappy at how the case of a person of great power and authority is being handled, and that also someone who hails from a legal profession, presiding in one of the most sensitive cases.  

Seen holding a placard that read as, 'Who killed Loya', “I decided to demand for a fair and transparent investigation,” Pai said.The publisher claimed that he first protested alone on November 23 and 24 at Andheri station and later uploaded his protest pictures on Facebook. Over the social media platform, he met like-minded people who decided to protest in a group.

In the last 15 days, he had held five protests covering four locations; Andheri metro, JB Nagar metro, Azad Maidan and Churchgate Station.

During the protest, Pai was seen distributing pamphlets, printed on his own expense with a headline, 'Who killed Justice Loya?'“Ours is not a political protest, which fizzles out in one day. There is fear in everyone's mind, but we will not stop. One person came all the way from Pune to join me. People from Jaipur and Delhi called me expressing their desire to conduct these protests in their home city and state. We want a time bound investigation and since the people in the system are not doing their job, citizens have to take it up in their own hands, but the media has immense power to rake up the issue,” explained the publisher.

The sole spearhead wonders how people don't seem to be bothered. He wants people to come out because he curiously questions, “If a CBI judge in this country is not safe, then how can the citizens be assured of their well being?”.

The activist and his fellow protestees had been detained for three hours and were later booked under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Repeated attempts by this paper to contact Vasant Wakhare, Senior Inspector, Azad Maidan Police Station to determine the true cause for Pai's detention remained futile.

What's surprising is the condition in which the body of Loya was returned to the family and a post-mortem had been conducted without their permission, reflects irregularities in the version presented to them, in what is being seen as a huge cover-up. However, no one yet knows what went amiss.

After details in a magazine's scathing report emerged, Justice Loya's family went off the radar and have not interacted with the press since. The family members' phones are either off or unreachable.

Asking him if his efforts would yield any results, “Although I have less hope, I will go on.”

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