The Supreme Court on Friday termed the mysterious death of CBI judge Loya as a “very serious matter” and asked the Maharashtra government to submit the autopsy report.
Justice BH Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case and had died of a mysterious cardiac arrest in 2014 when he was in Nagpur for the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
A three-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising justices Arun Mishra and MM Shantanagoudar asked if the state government is ready to submit its response. The next hearing is scheduled for January 15.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a Maharashtra journalist B R Lone who sought an independent inquiry into justice Loya’s death.
On January 8, the Bombay Lawyers’ Association had filed a similar petition in the Bombay High Court, appealing for an investigation into Justice Loya’s death. The association asked the court to set up a commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. In today’s hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the lawyers association said that the high court is seized of the matter and the top court should not hear the pleas.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for journalist B R Lone, said that she has also instructions from the lawyers association that this matter should not be heard by the top court.
The bench, however, said it will look into the petitions but will also consider the objections raised.
In the wake of the issues surrounding Justice Loya’s death, 4 supreme court lawyers question the workings of the top court
In an unprecedented move, four senior-most judges in the Supreme Court, after the Chief Justice, Justice J Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph, held a press conference to talk about the issues plaguing the apex court.
On being enquired repeatedly, Justice Gogoi told the media that the press conference was prompted on the issue of appointment of judges in the case of death of special CBI Judge BH Loya.
“Sometimes, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. There are many things less than desirable that have happened in the last few months… As senior-most justices of the court, we have a responsibility to the nation and institution. We tried to persuade the CJI that some things are not in order and he needs to take remedial measures. Unfortunately, our efforts failed. We all believe that the SC must maintain its equanimity. Democracy will not survive without a free judiciary,” said Justice Chelameswar, as reported by The Wire.
Background of Justice Loya’s mysterious death
Loya was the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge presiding over the trail of BJP top chief Amit Shah and several top officers in the Gujarat police for the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi in 2005. Shah was arrested by the CBI in July 2010 in connection with the alleged staged shooting.
Loya had taken over the trial after Justice JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, was transferred from the CBI special court in mid-2014, in violation of the Supreme Court order which said that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish. Loya died on 1 December 2014 of an alleged cardiac arrest. Later the same year, Amit Shah was discharged by the Mumbai special CBI court.
An investigative report in The Caravan in November last year pointed at blatant inconsistencies in the judge’s death, bringing the case back to headlines. Loya’s sister alleged that the then Chief Justice of Bombay high court had offered Loya a bribe of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgement. The Caravan’s report was contradicted by a report in The Indian Express.