The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed petitions seeking an independent investigation into the death of special CBI judge Brijmohan Harikishan Loya. Stating that the death was “due to natural causes,” a three-judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said that there was no merit in the pleas and that the petitioners tried to “scandalise judiciary.”
Announcing the order, the top court said that the petitions were a “veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary” and that “there is no reason to doubt the statements of sitting Judge.” The bench also said that the “petitioners’ conduct prima-facie constitutes criminal contempt,” but the court “would spare them of any contempt action.”
Records show Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh “fake encounter” case in which BJP president Amit Shah was named as an accused, died of a heart attack in 2014. Loya’s death became a controversy following a report in Caravan magazine, which quoted Loya’s sister and father suggesting foul play and cover-up in the incident. A subsequent investigation by The Indian Express brought out that several claims in the report were not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records.
The Bombay Lawyers’ Association subsequently moved the Bombay High Court, seeking a probe in the matter. PILs were filed in the Supreme Court. The apex court transferred the petitions in Bombay HC to itself and heard all of them together.
Appearing for the lawyers’ association, senior advocate Dushyant Dave sought to punch holes in the official version of the death, while Harish Salve representing Maharashtra said the claims were politically motivated. Stating that the case was being politicised since a person heading a political party was involved in it, Salve rejected the foul play claims.
Court not the venue to settle political scores
The top court today trashed the questions raised by the petitioners over Loya’s stay at Ravi Bhavan, where he is said to have spent the night of November 30, 2014 while in Nagpur to attend a wedding. Taking the Loya case as an example, the court in its order also lamented over the increasing instances of misuse of PILs. Stating that the bench was not spared by the petitioners and that serious attacks were made against the credibility of the two Bombay High Court judges, the court said it “should not be made the venue to settle political scores .”
The Opposition had also launched an attack against the BJP, saying that democracy was under threat when lawyers are jeopardized for doing their duty. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also met president Ramnath Kovind seeking an independent probe in the case. The memorandum handed over to the President was signed by 114 MPs from 15 parties.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan called the SC order very unfortunate. Saying that despite ECG report denying any signs of heart attack and family raising doubts over death, the court chose to believe four judicial officers who had not signed affidavits. Bhushan had alleged foul play in the death of the Judge.