Supreme Court on Thursday, April 19th dismissed several petitions seeking an independent probe into CBI Judge BH Loya‘s death ruling that he died of natural causes.
Facts of the case
Justice Loya had suffered a heart attack at Nagpur on December 1, 2014, while attending a wedding of a colleague’s daughter. Four eminent judges of the Bombay High Court, Shrikant Kulkarni, S M Modak, V C Barde and Roopesh Rathi, confirmed that there was no foul play and the death was due to natural cause. Since at the time Justice Loya was presiding over the high profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case there were allegations of foul play as to the circumstances of the death.
It was alleged in November 2017 by Justice Loya’s sister that the Judge was under serious political pressure because of the sensitive nature of the case which implied that the Judge may have died under unnatural circumstances. At the same time on January 12, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court in a press conference hinted at rampant irregularities being practised at the Apex Court. They alleged that junior judges were given sensitive and high profile cases subverting the norm of the Supreme Court. All of these lead to several petitions being submitted to the Court seeking clarification on the situation as well as requesting an independent probe by the SIT on Justice Loya‘s death.
The case was heard by a three judges Division Bench comprising of the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. The several petitions filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and Maharashtra based journalist BS Lone alleged that the circumstances of Justice Loya’s death were suspicious. It was further pointed out that the persons with whom the late Justice had shared his precarious situation also died under mysterious circumstances.
The Apex Court claimed that the pleas were “a vituperative assault on the judiciary” and “a scandalous attempt” to malign the name of the Court. The Court criticised the senior activist lawyers Dushyant Dave, Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan appearing on behalf of the petitioners for partaking in such an attempt to impugn the reputation of the Supreme Court.
Maharashtra government represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve along with Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta presented affidavits signed by four judges of the Bombay High Court who were with Justice Loya that day and also submitted the intelligence report of the investigation into Justice Loya’s death. The statement published by Justice Loya’s son on January 14 where he said that his father had died of natural causes was also reported to the Apex Court.
Senior advocate Rohatgi rubbished the conspiracy theories mentioned in the various PILs and claimed it was “an attempt to target ‘one individual’ in the guise of upholding the rule of law.” He stated that the whole incident was created to malign a certain political party and was targeted at BJP president Amit Shah who was implicated in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case along with several other individuals such as Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief PC Pande, Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri and Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama and NK Amin, all of whom were later exonerated by the Apex Court.
The Supreme Court held, “documents placed on record and their scrutiny establish that Judge Loya’s death was due to ‘natural cause‘. The account of the incident provided by the four judges of the Bombay High Court appeared “credible, consistent and truthful” and “there is no reason for this court to doubt the veracity of their statements.” Justice Chandrachud wrote in his verdict, “Business rivalries have to be resolved in the market and political rivalries in the grand hall of democracy. It is the court’s duty to protect the law.”