Controversial death

Judge Loya case: Maharashtra government failed its constitutional obligation, argues Dushyant Dave

The senior advocate, who is representing the Bombay Lawyers’ Association, alleged that the government had acted ‘in a partisan manner to stall an inquiry’.

The Supreme Court on Thursday continued to hear petitions that have sought a court-monitored independent inquiry into the death of Central Bureau of Investigation Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who is representing the Bombay Lawyers’ Association, made his final submissions in the case.

Dave argued that the government of Maharashtra had taken an “adversarial” position in the case and the state and its officers, instead of acting independently and serving their constitutional obligations, were “acting in a partisan manner to stall an inquiry”, Live Law reported.

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

The Caravan’s story was a “well-researched investigative piece of journalism”, Dave said on Thursday. The interviews with Loya’s father and sisters were conducted “in a free and fair atmosphere without any coercion or inducement whatsoever and are supported by critical examination of documentary evidence”, the senior advocate told the court.

While the Maharashtra government had argued that “the article was completely bereft of facts and truth”, it swung into action within two days and ordered the Commissioner of State Intelligence to conduct a “discreet inquiry”, Dave pointed out. “The decision of the state to order such an inquiry raises serious doubts as to the motive behind it. Apparently, the state wanted to preempt any independent inquiry including by the courts.”

Although the state, in its letter, did not indicate the scope of the investigation or those who were with Judge Loya in his final moments, the commissioner wrote to the Bombay High Court chief justice, naming the four judges who “had accompanied Loya to hospital”. The commissioner even sought permission to record the judges’ statements either in the form of a statement or a detailed letter, Dave said.

“How did the Commissioner of Intelligence, within minutes of the state government’s order, know who the judicial officers who had accompanied the late Judge Loya were?” Dave asked. “Clearly his letter to the High Court demonstrates the frivolous nature of the preconceived and predetermined inquiry.”

Judge Loya’s son Anuj Loya had met Bombay High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellar on November 27, 2017, and had later claimed that the family had no complaints or suspicions about the circumstances of his father’s death. “It is imperative that the copy of the said letter of Mr Anuj Loya stated to have been handed over to the chief justice be produced before this court,” Dave said.

During the proceedings, when the Supreme Court judges questioned Dave’s submissions, the senior advocate said he was troubled that the judges had put forward a number of questions and alternative possibilities during his arguments, but did not do so when Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing the Maharashtra government, made his submissions, Bar and Bench reported. To this, Justice DY Chandrachud shot back: “We will ask the questions we want. We do not want a certificate from the arguing counsel. Justice lies in our conscience.”

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