The Supreme Court on Monday said the controversy over the alleged mysterious death of the special CBI court judge B H Loya was “serious”, making it clear that it will comprehensively examine the circumstances leading to Loya’s death.
A Bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which was hearing two PILs seeking independent probe into Loya’s death, also transferred to itself two other petitions pending at Nagpur and Mumbai Benches of the Bombay High Court.
The apex court Bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, restrained all the high courts in the country from entertaining any petition on Loya’s death, asserting that it will handle the case.
“Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have,” the Bench reportedly observed during the hearing as it directed all the parties to file their material relating to Loya’s death and the circumstances leading to it. The top court posted the next hearing on 2 February.
Senior lawyers, Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Bombay Lawyers Association, and Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervener, said the records being produced by the Maharashtra government were incomplete.
“There is no question of restricting the records. Prepare a compilation of the record,” the Bench said, allowing both sides to file whatever documents they possessed. Dave objected to senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for Maharashtra, saying it was “not fair” for him to appear for the state government after appearing for BJP president Amit Shah.
“We are on the circumstances leading to the death of judge Loya. Let us not comment who is appearing for whom,” Justice Chandrachud said.
In a showdown between Dave and Salve, Dave charged, “Entire institution is trying to protect one man ~ Amit Shah and Amit Shah alone.” Salve strongly objected to his remark. The Bench intervened, saying that all the counsel appearing in the matter should assist it to “examine the documents objectively”, even as it assured that it would order the probe if required.
As Dave remarked that “as of today, it is a natural death”, Justice Chandrachud said he should then “not cast aspersions”, adding “Let us look at the material objectively”.
In another confrontation, Jaising objected to Salve saying that the confidentiality of the state’s material being shared be maintained and not shared with the media.
As Jainsing said it was like gagging the media and asked the court not to pass any order on Salve’s plea, the CJI asked if the court had said anything like that.
“Did we utter a word? Did we say gag? You can’t say order of the court. We are just discussing the matter,” an upset CJI Misra told Jaising, asking her to withdraw her statement and apologise. She complied with it.
Judge Loya, 48, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh “fake” encounter case, had died on 1 December 2014 in Nagpur where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
Amit Shah was an accused in the Sohrabuddin case but had been subsequently discharged. On 12 January, four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court ~ Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph ~ had taken on CJI Misra publicly, questioning his “selective” allocation of cases to various Benches.