Chief Justice decides to hear PILs on CBI judge Loya’s death

This follows the recusal of a two-judge Bench which was supposed to hear the case.

January 20, 2018 03:59 pm | Updated 04:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will hear on January 22 two PILs for an independent probe into the death of CBI judge B.H. Loya.

Justice Loya, at the time of his death in December 2014, was hearing the politically-sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh police encounter case.

On January 16, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar recused themselves from hearing the PILs any further by inserting a line in their order saying “put up case before appropriate Bench.”

This line was not part of the order dictated by the Bench in court at the end of hearing which saw the court direct Maharashtra government to place documents pertaining to judge Loya’s death on court record, and if “considered appropriate,” share them with the PIL petitioners, Maharashtra-based journalist B.R. Lone and activist Tehseen Poonawala.

Justice Mishra had, during the hearing, orally said “this is a case in which they (PIL petitioners) should know everything.”

After the judges recused, the PILs had gone back to Chief Justice Misra, who took a decision on the administrative side, to place it for judicial hearing before the Bench of himself, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud.

The allocation of the PILs to Justice Mishra’s Bench had been the flashpoint for an unprecedented press conference held on January 12 by the apex court’s four senior judges — Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

Justice Gogoi had even confirmed on camera that the judges personally confronted Chief Justice Misra with allocation of the case to Justice Mishra on the very morning of their press conference.

The four judges had questioned in public the allocation of certain “cases of national importance” to “preferred Benches” in the apex court.

The press meet had spurred the Executive body of the powerful Supreme Court Bar Association to pass a resolution that all pending PILs should be transferred to the court of the CJI. If the CJI cannot for someone reason hear a PIL, the case should be heard by either of his four seniormost colleagues, the resolution said.

The decision by Justice Mishra’s Bench on January 16 to recuse from hearing the case coincided with the first meeting between Chief Justice and his four senior colleagues to patch up after the latter’s January 12 press meet.

The CJI and the four judges have met once more during the week. More meetings to discuss allocations of cases to Benches and other issues flagged at the press conference are expected. Senior Supreme Court judges like Justices A.K. Sikri and Chandrachud are also part of the hectic parleys.

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