NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court said on Monday that PILs seeking an independent probe into special CBI judge B H Loya’s death raised serious issues which should be decided by looking objectively into all documents without being distracted by allegations. It transferred to itself two PILs on the matter that the Bombay high court was scheduled to hear on Tuesday.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also barred other HCs from entertaining any petition concerning Loya’s case. Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Dushyant Dave conceded that “as of today the death appears to be a natural one”, but said his clients had used the Right to Information Act to get many more documents on Loya’s death which had not been produced by the Maharashtra government before the apex court.
These RTI documents raise serious suspicions about the circumstances leading to Loya’s death,” he claimed. The bench took a cue from Dave’s admission and said, “If it is a natural death as of now, why cast aspersions? Let us look at the matter dispassionately and objectively.” It also transferred two PILs pending before Bombay HC to itself.
The order followed high-octane arguments. A packed court room watched in silence as Maharashtra government’s counsel Harish Salve presented documents, including statements of four district judges, in support of the state’s stand that Loya suffered a heart attack and died a natural death. Dave attacked Salve and said the latter had violated professional ethics by appearing for the Maharashtra government despite having represented BJP chief Amit Shah.
Shah was one of the accused in the case concerning the “fake” encounter of inter-state gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh which was being tried by Loya at the time of his death. Shah was later discharged from the case.
The CJI-led bench said, “We are looking at the circumstances in which Loya died. Let it not be deflected by personal allegations. Several newspaper articles have raised a serious issue about Loya’s death. We would like to look at all documents, both the ones produced by the state and those obtained through RTI by petitioners. We must know all facts. Let us look at these documents objectively and not get deflected by allegations.” It posted the hearing on all PILs, including the transferred ones, on February 2.
Salve said two district judges had accompanied Loya for a wedding reception in Nagpur and they stayed together in a guesthouse where, in the early hours of December 1, 2014, Loya suffered a massive heart attack. “Loya was taken by the two district judges in a car to a hospital and then to another. These two judges were later joined by another two district judges. All of them have given statements during the discreet inquiry that they had been with Loya all along during his last hours and that there was no foul play or suspicion about the nature of death,” he said.
“The claim in the media report that Loya was taken to hospital in a three-wheeler was completely baseless as the judges have stated in their statements that Loya was taken in a car to the hospital,” Salve said, adding then Bombay HC chief justice Mohit Shah was informed about the developments on a realtime basis and the CJ had taken steps for adequate medical help to Loya, who could not be revived.
Dave vented his ire against Salve by questioning his ethics, and requested the SC not to permit Salve to argue in the case. He also criticised then CJ Mohit Shah in transferring the Sohrabuddin Sheikh trial judge.
“There is sufficient evidence to show Loya never stayed at the guesthouse. On November 24, 2014, Loya’s security was withdrawn in Mumbai. Why were Loya’s family members not called to the hospital? There are serious contradictions which require a deeper independent probe. No one has a personal interest in this case,” Dave said.
“It is sad that Justice Mohit Shah transferred the first judge in the Sohrabuddin trial. The second judge (Loya) died. The third judge acquitted Amit Shah and others within a month of Loya’s death,” Dave said.