Sanjay Fadnavis, a cousin of the chief minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, made a late-night call to threaten an advocate who had been working to obtain information regarding the mysterious death of the judge BH Loya.
At close to 1 am on the intervening night between 5 and 6 March, Fadnavis called the advocate and activist Abhiyan Barahate. During the call, which lasted for nearly two minutes, Fadnavis told Barahate that he had come to know of the “big work” the advocate had been doing recently. Fadnavis then told Barahate that “we are coming in even in 2019,” and warned him to not “complain” later when he is “picked up by the police,” thrown “behind bars” and “gets fucked in the ass.” Sanjay is the son of the chief minister’s paternal uncle. He is known to be politically active on behalf of his cousin in Nagpur.
On 6 March, Barahate sent a written complaint to the police commissioner of Nagpur about the “criminal intimidation in filthy language” by Fadnavis. Barahate explains in his letter to the commissioner that he had met Fadnavis during the 2014 assembly elections in the state, while the latter had been campaigning for his cousin, Devendra. According to Barahate’s letter, the two exchanged numbers, and subsequently met on various occasions, but had not been in touch for at least the past year. Barahate added that he was “deliberately keeping distance” from those affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party because he had begun working with Satish Uke, a lawyer and activist for whom he began appearing before various government authorities and organisations. He further wrote that he had been helping the lawyer-activist amass information regarding the mysterious death of the judge BH Loya, via Right to Information (RTI) applications. Barahate has represented Uke in a number of cases in the Bombay High Court. In light of the threatening call from the chief minister’s brother, he also filed an application with the Bombay High Court to withdraw the vakalatnama filed in one of these cases.
Uke has been working to gather information and documents pertaining to Judge Loya’s death for a few years now. At the time of his death, Loya was hearing the case regarding the allegedly staged killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, in which the prime accused was Amit Shah.
Barahate writes in his letter that he “applied for information” under the RTI Act for Uke in “various government offices regarding the suspicious death” of Judge Loya. “Prior to 5.03.2018, I received bulky information in RTI fir Adv. Uke in Judge Loya issue,” Barahate writes. “On 5.03.2018, I, alongwith Adv. Uke visited the Office of Protocol Dept., Dist. Collector Office Nagpur to get information about the protocol given to Mr Amit Shah ( B.J.P. National President ) for his Nagpur visit dated 04.03.2018.” Barahate further states that he received the information the same day.
On the intervening night between 5 and 6 March, close to 1 am, Barahate received the call from Sanjay Fadnavis. “Do you know who is speaking?” Fadnavis asked. Barahate said no, adding that he had recently changed his phone. “Sanjay Fadnavis boltoy”—Sanjay Fadnavis speaking.
“I came to know that you have been doing big-big work,” Fadnavis told Barahate. The advocate then asked Fadnavis what the latter was referring to. “We are coming in even in 2019,” replied Fadnavis. “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 fucked in the ass … Don’t say all this later … I have some respect for your wife, that is why I am talking to you. Understood, asshole?”
Uke’s path has crossed paths with the Fadnavis family earlier as well—after a Bombay High Court bench comprising the justices Bhushan Gavai and VM Deshpande passed an order, in 2014, quashing an FIR against Devendra Fadnavis, Uke filed an application for the recall of this order. The court dismissed this application, but Uke persisted, filing a special leave petition challenging the high court’s order in the Supreme Court, which was also dismissed. Uke then returned to the Bombay High Court. He continued to file numerous petitions and applications related to the case until January 2016, when, while hearing one such petition, RK Deshpande initiated contempt proceedings against him. Uke was subsequently convicted for criminal contempt, and fined Rs 2,000. He was also sentenced to prison for two months. He filed an appeal against this decision in the Supreme Court, which the court dismissed in August that year. A review petition against the dismissal is still pending before the Supreme Court.
Uke’s association with Loya became public in recent months, after The Caravan published a series of reports regarding the suspicious circumstances surrounding the judge’s death in Nagpur in 2014, purportedly of a heart attack. On 31 January, the lawyer-activist appeared among the speakers during a press conference led by the senior advocate Kapil Sibal, on behalf of the Congress party. Sibal recounted to the press Uke’s account of his interactions with Loya: he said that in October 2014, nearly two months before his death, the judge had confided in Uke that he was facing immense pressure while hearing the Sohrabuddin case.
According to newsreports, a press note released by the Congress stated that Uke filed matters against “influential persons who were pressurising judge Loya to pass a discharge order.” The note reportedly went on to state that during a video call that took place between Uke and Loya in 2014, the names of some such persons were revealed. According to the note, these included Mohit Shah, the Bombay High Court’s chief justice at the time; Justice Bhushan Gavai, a sitting judge of the high court; and Devendra Fadnavis.
In early February 2018, Uke appeared before the Supreme Court in the review petition against the court’s order dismissing the appeal against the contempt conviction. He stated that he wished to tender his apology to the Bombay High Court, and withdraw his previous allegations of impropriety. Sibal appeared for him in the matter.
When I contacted to Sanjay Fadnavis, he did not deny calling Barahate. “I have respect for his wife,” he told me. “Today also I have very much respect for his wife, that is why I am speaking. Otherwise I can do anything.
I asked what he meant by “do anything.” “Anything in the sense that I can go to him and I can talk to him, but the only thing is that I might lose my temper,” he replied. “Otherwise I would have gone. I do not want to lose my temper in front of his wife.”
Transcript of call from Sanjay Fadnavis to Advocate Abhiyan Barahate (Marathi)
Abhiyan Barahate: Hello.
Sanjay Fadnavis: Hello.
SF: Olakhlya ka kon boltoy?
SF: Majha number saved naahi?
AB: Um … naahi ha mobile change kelaay mee, kon bolat aahe saaheb aapan?
SF: Sanjay Fadnavis boltoy.
AB: Bolana sir.
SF: Kaay bolu tumcha tar khoop motha motha kaam chaalu aahe asa kaltoy.
AB: Maajha …
AB: Kashyabaddal, sir?
SF: Sagdyach babteet kaltoy, tumcha phar motha motha kaam chalu aahe … hello?
AB: Bola na, sir.
SF: Naahi, vichartoy mothe mothe kaam kartaat tumhi … (khokalale) 2019 madhe aamheech yenaar aahe, nantar bagoo tumhala … hello?
AB: Haan sir
SF: Bola. 2019 madhe aamheech yenaar aahe nantar bagto tumhala kaay kaay kartaay the. Sagad bagto. … mag nantar bolu nakaa … ki aath java laagla … uchalala policeaani … gaand maarli geli … he nantar bolaycha naahi … tujhya baaykocha thoda respect karto … mhanoon tujhyashi boltoy. Kalala gaandu?
SF: Haan … pudhe baghu kaay hotay the aatha.
Transcript of call from Sanjay Fadnavis to Advocate Abhiyan Barahate (English)
Abhiyan Barahate: Hello.
Sanjay Fadnavis: Hello.
SF: Do you know who is speaking?
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-big work.
AB: My …
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-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 ass fucked … don’t say all this later. I have some respect for your wife, that is why I am talking to you. Understood, asshole?
SF: Yes … we will see what happens now.