Lawyer investigating Judge Loya's death says he was threatened by Devendra Fadnavis's cousin

Mar 10, 2018, 14:40 IST | Hemal Ashar

Lawyer digging into Judge Loya's mysterious death on being threatened by Fadnavis's cousin

Judge B H Loya
Judge B H Loya

When the phone rang close to 1 am, Advocate Abhiyan Barahate knew it couldn't be anything good. Since he was investigating the death of Judge BH Loya, Barahate recorded the call. And it's a good thing he did. By now, half the country has heard the recording of a man who introduced himself as Sanjay Fadnavis - cousin of CM Devendra Fadnavis - and abused and threatened Barahate.

Barahate got the threat call at 12.48 am on March 6. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Barahate got the threat call at 12.48 am on March 6. Representation pic/Thinkstock

In the call, recorded in the wee hours of March 6, Fadnavis started off by stating that he knew about the "big work" Barahate was doing, and then issued a string of crude threats to the advocate. In the nearly two-minute call, Fadnavis warned, "We are coming in even in 2019" and then told Barahate not to complain if he got picked up by the police and "got a** f****d".

The very same day Nagpur resident Barahate posted a written complaint to Ajni police station by way of the Nagpur Police Commissionerate. A wary Barahate told mid-day over the phone, "I did not go to the police station to file a complaint. Why should I go to a place that was used as a tool to threaten me?"

"When there is a threat against me, I have to file a complaint with the police. I did it because tomorrow, if something were to happen to me, there is a record of my complaint with the police," said Barahate, who refused to give his picture to this paper, pointing out that there was a threat to his life.

High stakes case
Barahate has every reason to be worried, as the investigation into Judge Loya's death has ruffled many feathers. Judge Loya was presiding over the trial of BJP president Amit Shah and top cops in Gujarat for the encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. The judge passed away on December 1, 2014, after a heart attack, but his family members alleged foul play. Within 29 days of Loya's death, a replacement judge discharged Shah before the trial could even resume.

"I had recently received some documents with reference to the death of Judge B H Loya. I was working with lawyer-activist Satish Uke and was helping to amass information regarding Loya's death via the Right to Information (RTI) Act. I also tried get information about BJP president Amit Shah's visit to Nagpur on March 4. I have a right to ask for information; social work is part of advocacy," he said.

'Not an empty threat'
Fellow crusader, Advocate Uke said, "I am aware that Barahate received a threat call. Sanjay Fadnavis is very politically savvy. He also makes good on his threats; he is not a man of empty words." Asked how he had the presence of mind to record the call, Barahate said, "I got the call at 12.48 am - that is not the time for a casual phone call. It was the timing that made me record the call."

Once a BJP man...
Three days on, though, Barahate is yet to hear from the police. "I have not heard back from the police as yet, but my family is very tense and so am I," he said. His fear could not have been stated clearer than the end to his police complaint: 'It is clear that my life and liberty, as well as that of my family members, is at risk at the hand of BJP people, and all the people and police officers who are personally related to Mr Fadnavis.' Ironically, Barahate was once a BJP man himself. "Years ago, I used to be a BJP worker. I quit and became an advocate. Fighting for the people is my religion now," he said. Meanwhile, an official from the Ajni police station in Nagpur said, "We have not yet received the complaint. If it has been posted to the Nagpur Commissioner of Police, it will reach us soon."

The other side
A spokesperson from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said, "The allegations concern the cousin of CM Devendra Fadnavis, so Sanjay Fadnavis must answer this. We cannot give any statement." Despite mid-day's repeated attempts to contact Sanjay Fadnavis, he could not be reached for comment.

Excerpts from the call
Abhiyan Barahate: Hello.
Sanjay Fadnavis: Hello.
AB: Haan.
SF: Do you know who is speaking?
AB: No.
SF: No?
AB: Haan.
SF: You haven't saved my number?
AB: Um ... no, I have changed this mobile. Who is speaking, sir?
SF: Sanjay Fadnavis speaking.
AB: Tell me, sir.
SF: What do I say, I came to know that you have been doing big work.
AB: My ...
SF: Hm.
AB: What is this about, sir?
SF: I know about everything, you are doing big-big work ... hello?
AB: Tell me, sir.
SF: No, I am asking, you are doing big work ... (coughs). We are coming in even in 2019. Will see you after that ... hello?
AB: Yes, sir.
SF: Tell me ... we are coming in even in 2019. Then we will see what all will be done to you. We will see everything. Then don't say later that I had to go behind bars ... police picked me up ... got a** f****d ... don't say all this later. I have some respect for your wife, that is why I am talking to you. Understood, a*****e?
AB: Hmm.
SF: Yes ... we will see what happens now.

* Translated from Marathi

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