India: Supreme Court asks Maharashtra government to give judge Loya’s reports to petitioners

Judge Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case, had allegedly died of cardiac arrest

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to give all documents pertaining to the death of CBI special judge B H Loya to the petitioners, who are seeking an independent investigation into the circumstances behind it.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M M Shantanagoudar passed the direction after the Maharashtra government submitted some documents, including Loya’s post-mortem report, in a sealed cover to the court.

Judge Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case, had allegedly died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014, when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.

As the petitioners said they needed to look at the documents submitted, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra, told the bench that the documents contained certain confidential material which cannot be shared in public and cannot be given to the petitioners.

The counsel for the petitioners, a journalist and a Congress leader, told the bench that they needed to look into these documents to argue the matter.

“It is a matter where they [petitioners] should know everything,” the bench observed.

The bench, which was hearing two PILs seeking independent probe into the death of Loya, adjourned the hearing for after a week without specifying any date.

Salve later told the court that the documents could be shown to the petitioners’ counsel but they should not make it public and mark them as confidential documents.

The bench then directed that all the documents be given to the petitioners within a week.

The petitioners’ counsel also assured the court that they would not make any of the documents public.

The apex court had earlier termed as a “serious matter” the issue of Loya’s alleged mysterious death and had sought Maharashtra government’s response.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bombay Lawyers’ Association, had said the high court was already seized of the matter and the top court should refrain from hearing the issue.

Advocate Varinder Kumar Sharma, appearing for petitioner Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla, had said this was a case where a mysterious death of a judge, who was hearing a sensitive case, had taken place on December 1, 2014 and it needed to be investigated independently.

The apex court had agreed to hear two separate pleas filed by Poonawalla and Maharashtra-based journalist B R Lone, seeking an independent probe into Loya’s death.

The issue had come under the spotlight in November last year after media reports quoting his sister fuelled suspicion about the circumstances surrounding his death and its link to the Sohrabuddin case.

Poonawala, in his plea, said the circumstances revolving around the death of the judge were “questionable, mysterious and contradicting”.

The other plea filed by the journalist submitted that a fair probe was needed into the mysterious death of Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin encounter case in which various police officers and BJP president Amit Shah were named as parties.

A PIL seeking probe into the judge’s death was also filed before the Bombay High Court on January 8 by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association.

In the encounter case, the BJP President along with Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande, Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri and Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama and N K Amin, have already been discharged.

A total of 23 accused, including police personnel, are facing trial for their involvement in the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and their associate Tulsidas Prajapati in Gujarat in November 2005.

The case was later transferred to CBI and the trial shifted to Mumbai.


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