Controversial death

Judge Loya case: SC says it will order independent investigation if there’s ‘slightest suspicion’

The court will continue the hearing on Thursday.

The Supreme Court on Monday said that it will order an independent inquiry into the death of Central Bureau of Investigation Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya if it finds even slight suspicion. The court had on February 19 said that it was treating the case with the “highest amount of seriousness”.

A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanvilkar and DY Chandrachud is hearing petitions that demand a Supreme Court-monitored independent investigation into Loya’s death. The court will continue the hearing on Thursday.

“It is not about the magnitude [of discrepancies in the case]…even if we have slightest suspicion, definitely we will order [an independent inquiry],” said Chief Justice Misra, according to The Indian Express. He was responding to allegations made by senior advocate Dushyant Dave that there were discrepancies in the Maharashtra government’s version of events leading to Loya’s death. Dave is representing the Bombay Lawyer’s Association, which has sought an independent investigation in the case.

At the time of his death on December 1, 2014, the special Central Bureau of Investigation judge was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah was an accused. Suspicions were raised on whether his death was natural after The Caravan published a report with startling revelations in November 2017.

Citing discharges and witnesses turning hostile in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, Dave said he has “never seen a case in which the entire judiciary is at beck and call of one person”, in a veiled reference to BJP President Shah.

Justice AM Khanwilkar, however, took objection to the “strong statement” and said, “You cannot repeat this again in the court...Things cannot work like this.”

Dave also claimed that the four district court judges who were present at the time of Loya’s death “did not have the courage” to say “anything against the judges of the high court”. He also complained about Bombay High Court judges Bhushan Gavai and Sunil Shukre giving interviews to the media.

“The trump card of the [Maharashtra] government is the [intelligence] report,” Dave said. “However, which district court judge has the courage to say anything against higher judiciary? Why should a sitting HC judge give an interview? On the administrative side, your lordship should tick off these two judges.”

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta protested to this. “He is accusing the judges,” said Mehta. “I must tell your lordships that he should not be allowed to speak about sitting judges like this.”

Dave, however, responded: “You are not officer of the court...You have been Amit Shah’s lawyer for 15 years…and sitting judges are not holy cows.”

Meanwhile, an intervention application filed in the Supreme Court on Monday claimed that the Maharashtra government “appears to have withheld” from the court certain documents that could “demolish” the official version that Judge Loya died of a heart attack. The court has agreed to hear the application on March 8.

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