Senior advocate V Giri on Monday told the Supreme Court that the investigative report submitted by the state of Maharashtra in connection with the death of Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya was full of contradictions. Giri, appearing for petitioner Tehseen Poonawalla, said there were enough grounds for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the CBI judge’s death.
A Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanvilkar and DY Chandrachud, were hearing petitions that demanded an independent investigation monitored by the Supreme Court into Loya’s death. When Loya died in December 2014, he was presiding over a special CBI court in Mumbai that was hearing a case about the extrajudicial murder by the Gujarat Police of alleged extortionist Sohrabuddin Sheikh.
BJP President Amit Shah was among the accused in the case. He was the home minister of Gujarat when the alleged fake encounter took place. In November, the Caravan magazine made some startling revelations that raised doubts on whether Loya’s death was natural.
On February 2, advocate Dushyant Dave, who is representing the Bombay Lawyers Association in the case, had made similar submissions. Dave had alleged that Loya’s body was taken to his village on the request of a cousin’s friend without the knowledge of his family, and that it was not taken to Bombay, where his family was living. However, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, had denied that Loya’s body was handed over to a stranger.
It has been alleged that Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding of the daughter of a fellow judge when he died. On Monday, Giri said no investigation had been conducted to verify the claim that he was in Nagpur to attend a wedding or that he was present at Ravi Bhavan in Nagpur. Giri also claimed that the statements of four doctors who were present at the time of the CBI judge’s death had not been verified.
“Medical records contradict each other on discharge of judge Loya’s body from hospital,” the advocate said, according to Live Law. “The State Intelligence Department failed to explain as to how Dr Prashant Rathi came to be present at Sitabardi police station at 8.30 pm and Sadar police station at the same time as per the state’s records...The discrepancies in the date of admission of the deceased are glaring.”
Giri also pointed out that instead of recording statements of those judges who were with Loya at the time of the incident, the State Intelligence Department had only sent out letters to them. The judicial officers had sent written statements, which have not been verified by the department, Giri alleged.
“The said enquiry has been conducted by the DG/Commissioner outside the bounds of law in a casual manner,” he added.
The Supreme Court posted the matter for further hearing on February 9.
‘Fish market’ scenes
The Supreme Court witnessed heated arguments between advocates Dushyant Dave and Pallav Shishodia, and Justice DY Chandrachud during the hearing.
Shishodia had appeared in the case for one of the petitioners, Bandhuraj Lone. Dave had earlier raised an objection claiming Shishodia had a conflict of interest since he had appeared for Amit Shah in 2011 in a plea challenging the BJP leader’s bail in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
Dave on Monday reiterated Shishodia’s “conflict of interest”. He also objected to senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for one of the petitioners in the case.
After Shishodia objected to Dave’s allegations, Justice Chandrachud asked the lawyers to calm down. “Let us not reduce the dialogue in this court to the level of fish market,” Chandrachud said, according to Bar & Bench. “You should not shout down the judge...you have to listen to me Mr Dave.”
However, Dave said, “Your Lordships should have stopped them from appearing in this court. You will have to answer your conscience.”
Dave also moved an application in the top court to cross-examine 11 people in the case, including two judges. “The witnesses do not seem to be apparently telling the truth and their versions are contradictory to the evidence, which has now emerged in public domain after independent investigations by journalists of various news organisations including the Caravan,” Dave said in his application, according to Live Law. “It is necessary and is of paramount importance that the said persons whose statements are recorded be permitted to be cross examined by the petitioner association in the interest of justice.”