The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on petitions seeking an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team into the death of judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya.
At the time of his death on December 1, 2014, Judge Loya of a special Central Bureau of Investigation court was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, in which Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah was an accused. Suspicions were raised on whether Loya’s death was natural after The Caravan published a report in November 2017.
On Friday, the Maharashtra government argued before the Supreme Court that the demand for an inquiry into the death of judge Loya was not to protect the integrity of the judiciary, but to “keep the pot boiling”. Though senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the state, did not take Shah’s name directly, he said, “The aim is to somehow target that one individual who they have mentioned multiple times.”
Rohatgi said following a report in Caravan magazine on February 11, which carried the alleged opinion of Dr RK Sharma, former head of the Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, the Maharastra police wrote to the expert for clarification. In the Caravan article, Sharma had ruled out the heart attack theory and had said the documents showed signs of possible trauma to the brain, and even possible poisoning.
Rohatgi said the doctor had clarified that he was “grossly misquoted” by the magazine. He said the report was an attempt to shoot at someone from the shoulders of the expert and that not a word of the report should be believed. Moreover, AIIMS has clarified that they do not give these kind of opinions, Rohatgi added.
The lawyer also submitted opinion of another forensic expert, Dr Harish Pathak of the King Edward Government Hospital in Mumbai, which confirmed that the documents clearly showed that the death was due to “acute coronary insufficiency”.
Rohatgi said any move by the Supreme Court to order an inquiry mean that the investigation would have to treat the matter as any other criminal case, implying that judges, including those of the Bombay High Court, would have to provide statements as they would become witnesses. “Even the statements of the judges of the High Court administrative committee will have to be recorded,” he said, pointing to “innuendos” from the petitioners on judges.
The counsel said encouraging such “pernicious tendencies” of the petitioners would erode the independence of the judiciary. “The purpose is not justice for the judge’s family but to whip up propaganda,” he argued.
Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer for one of the petitioners, dismissed Rohatgi’s claims and claimed that Dr Sharma had been pressurised to disown the statements he gave to the Caravan.