The Supreme Court is presently hearing two petitions seeking a probe into the mysterious death of the judge BH Loya. At the time of his death, Loya was presiding over the trial in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, in which Amit Shah, now the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was the prime accused. The two petitions were filed, respectively, by Tehseen Poonawalla, who claims to be a “political trendsetter” on his Twitter profile, and Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone, who has been referred to in the media as a journalist from Maharashtra. The backgrounds of the petitioners, and the manner in which the petitions have been listed and heard since they were clubbed together on 12 January, merit close scrutiny.
While the media has identified Poonawalla as a Congress leader and Lone as a journalist, these labels appear to be of questionable validity. The leaders of the Congress have been forthrightly clear that the party has nothing to do with Poonawala’s petition. “The Congress party has not filed this petition,” Kapil Sibal, the party leader and Supreme Court lawyer, told me. “I was not consulted and I have nothing to do with it.” Lone did have a career as a journalist, but several of his former editors and colleagues told me that he was no longer working as one, and that he was informally attached to the public-relations office of Ashish Shelar, the head of BJP’s Mumbai unit. “He is one of those journalists who switch over to the personal staff of politicians,” one of Lone’s former editors, who requested not to be identified, told me. Lone, when contacted, denied this.
I spoke to three of Lone’s former editors and two of his colleagues, most of whom did not want to be identified. They helped piece together some of the history of the man. Lone worked for around a decade as a reporter for Mahanagar, a Marathi daily, before moving to another daily, Loksatta, where he was given the prestigious assignment of covering the Bombay Municipal Corporation. A former editor and a former colleague of his said that Lone liked to wax eloquent about the ideas of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Jotirao Phule and BR Ambedkar. “He fancied himself a revolutionary,” his former colleague said. “But it was mostly just talk.”