No foul play in judge Loya’s death, says Supreme Court

Judge B.H. Loya died of natural causes three years ago and there is "absolutely no merit" in the public interest litigation (PIL) petitions alleging foul play in his death, the Supreme Court concluded on Thursday.

The Supreme Court foreclosed any future questions on Judge Loya's demise, saying its verdict spelt the end of any further litigation on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Conclusion based on three aspects

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud based its conclusion on three aspects: One, the "indisputable" written statements given by the four judges and colleagues of Judge Loya to the Maharashtra police; two, there is nothing wrong when friends and colleagues share the same room at the guest house, Ravi Bhawan; and three, Judge Loya had called his wife on November 30, 2014, telling her he was staying at Ravi Bhawan.

The statements by the judges were made to the police, which launched a "discreet enquiry" in 2017 after articles appeared in a magazine raising suspicions about Judge Loya's death in Nagpur in November 2014.

No foul play in judge Loya’s death, says Supreme Court

The verdict traces the journey of Judge Loya and his fellow judges to Nagpur to attend a wedding, their itinerary there and how they stayed in one room in Ravi Bhawan.

Judge Loya, at the time of his death was the CBI Special Judge hearing the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. Mr. Shah was discharged from the case by Judge Loya's successor in office.

PILs a "vituperative assault on judiciary"

Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the verdict, described the PILs as a "vituperative assault on the judiciary". He said they were an example of misuse of judicial process and time when hundreds of litigants are waiting for their personal liberty.

Justice Chandrachud observed that the petitioners used the Supreme Court and their PILs as platforms to malign the Bombay High Court judiciary and the judicial officers who were with Judge Loya at the time of his death. At one point, the petitioners even wanted to "cross-examine" the judges who were with Judge Loya on their statements that said he died of a cardiac arrest.

Justice Chandrachud at one point wondered on the irony of why the petitioners first approached the Bombay High Court if they had no faith in its judges.

The judgment said the PILs were a "serious attack on the judiciary" and an attempt to "seriously scandalise" judges.

The PILs were an attempt to satisfy personal agendas and score over political rivals. The aura created by the petitioners that the PILs were meant to protect the independence of the judiciary - by seeking a probe into the death of Judge Loya - was a mere "facade". The truth was that the petitioners wanted to sensationalise the death of a judge. The PILs were only a "veiled attempt to destroy the credibility of judiciary" with "scurrilious" claims.

'Attempt to undermine public faith in judiciary'

To claims by petitioners that "one man" (Amit Shah) was controlling the judiciary was nothing but an attempt to undermine public faith in the judiciary and credibility of judicial process, the judgment said.

Justice Chandrachud said the petitioners should not use the courts to settle political scores. "Political rivalries should be settled in that great hall of democracy... Rule of law should not be reduced to a charade," he observed.

The apex court said the petitioners' claims and aspersions amounted to criminal contempt. But Justice Chandrachud said the court did not want to initiate contempt proceedings as judicial process should not be respected out of fear of contempt, but it is to be based on moral authority.

The verdict referred to how two of the judges on the apex court Bench, Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud, were even asked to recuse from hearing the Loya PILs as they were from the Bombay High Court and knew the judicial officers who were with Judge Loya.

Justice Chandrachud said they both decided to not "abdicate their duties" as they only answer to their judicial conscience and higher values.

"Industry of vested interests"

Justice Chandrachud described how PIL litigation had been brazenly misused to become an "industry of vested interests".

The court flagged the avalanche of PILs entering the Supreme Court and the High Courts, creating arrears and severely taking a toll on court work.

The court dismissed the Loya PILs, holding that there was no reasonable suspicion to show that Judge Loya's death was unnatural.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 12:42:49 PM |

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