Supreme Court transfers to itself two cases related to justice Loya’s death

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday transferred to itself two pending cases related to the allegedly mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of former judge B.H. Loya and allocated the case for hearing to itself.

This includes a public interest litigation (PIL) brought by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association (BLA) seeking a probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of the former judge.

Harish Salve, appearing for the Maharashtra government, told the court that a discreet inquiry had been conducted into the circumstances of Loya’s death after media reports to the contrary had surfaced.

According to the documents submitted to the court, four judicial officers who accompanied Loya to the hospital after he complained of chest pain have denied any foul play in their statements.

This was opposed by Dushyant Dave, appearing for the BLA, who said that the documents being referred to by the Maharashtra government were “self-serving in nature”. He referred to a Right to Information (RTI) report from the police indicating that Loya’s death was suspicious.

Dave further alleged a conflict of interest in Salve’s appearance as counsel for the Maharashtra government in the case.

“He had represented BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and is now appearing for the Maharashtra government. This poses a serious conflict of interest,” Dave told the court.

As the heated exchange continued between the lawyers, justice D.Y. Chandrachud, part of a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, intervened: “We are looking into the death of a judge. All of you are holders of your own conscience. Please don’t pass comments on persons appearing in the matter. It is a serious issue that needs to be considered objectively.”

The court urged all parties to cooperate and asked them to submit documents pertaining to Loya’s death.

Salve then requested the court to restrain the petitioners from making public government documents relating to the probe, which was opposed by senior advocates Indira Jaising and Dave, who said that such an action would amount to gagging of the media.

The Loya case had earlier been allocated to a bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and M.M. Shantanagoudar. However, after the recent judicial crisis over claims made by four senior apex court judges about an arbitrary system of allotment of cases by the CJI, Misra constituted a new bench comprising justices Chandrachud, A.M. Khanwilkar and himself on 20 January to hear the matter.

“Massive victory for me in the SC . All documents to be given to me and now begins the fight for Judge Loya,” Tehseen Poonawalla, one of the petitioners, tweeted after the hearing.

A batch of three petitions, including one by Poonawalla and another by a Maharashtra-based journalist, seeking a probe into the death of Loya, who at the time of his death was presiding over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in a case related to the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh by Gujarat Police, was before the court.

Loya died of a cardiac arrest on 1 December 2014 in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. His death came under the scanner following media reports citing some members of the judge’s family expressing doubts over the circumstances of his death.

The case will be heard next by the Supreme Court on 2 February.livemint