SC dismisses pleas seeking probe into death of Judge Loya

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners, addresses journalists after the Supreme Court dismissed the please seeking a probe into Judge B.H. Loya’s death.

New Delhi: A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Thursday dismissed a batch of pleas seeking an independent probe into circumstances leading to death of Judge BH Loya in 2014 while he was hearing the high profile Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter.

Holding that there was absolutely no merit in the pleas, the bench comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, said that Judge Loya had met a “natural death”.

Justice Chandrachud observed that there was no reason to doubt the statement given by the four judges, who were with Loya on the last day of his life and had termed his death “natural”.

“There is no merit in the case, there will be no probe into Loya’s death. These Public Interest Litigations (PILs) are scandalous and amount to criminal contempt. We cannot doubt the statements of the judicial officers who were with judge BH Loya. It appears to be an attempt by the petitioners to malign judges, and is a frontal attack on the judiciary,” the bench observed.

A batch of petitions were filed by activist Tehseen Poonawala, Bombay Lawyers Association, Maharashtra-based journalist Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone, and NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking an independent probe into Judge Loya’s death.

Loya, 48, died while hearing the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case, in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah was an accused. In 2014, he had gone to Nagpur to attend a wedding when he suffered a heart attack.

On Thursday, the SC said the misuse of PIL was a matter of concern.

“The motivated and frivolous PILs detract the court’s time from hearing genuine petitions. In this case, the petitioners said they had no personal agenda, but during hearing a veiled attempt was made to lodge an attack on the judiciary, which was confronted with scurrilous allegations,” the court further observed.

Reacting to the verdict, Congress called it a sad day.

“It is a sad day in India’s history. The suspicious circumstances in which Loya died was a matter of deep concern for those who have faith in the judiciary. The copy of the entire judgement is not yet available. But there are still questions before those who believe in the judiciary,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told media.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the apex court’s verdict will raise more questions. Another Congress leader Salman Khurshid accepted the verdict.

“Many many people would be deeply disappointed but this is the Supreme Court and if Supreme Court takes a view, we have to accept it and respect it,” he said.

Congress Gujarat leader Arjun Modhwadia commented that “only God would protect the upright judges.”

“Not Supreme Court but only God would protect the upright judges. Not only Judge Loya but his confidants to whom he shared and sought the help for threat he was receiving in Sohrabuddin trial case … advocates Khandalkar and Judge Thombre also subsequently died mysteriously,” Modhwadia tweeted.

On the other hand, BJP said the PILs were nothing but propaganda against the ruling party.

“The PILs on the death of special Judge BH Loya was a kind of blackmail and propaganda machinery aimed at maligning the people in power. Congress leadership should apologise to BJP President Amit Shah,” BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi said.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh hailed the verdict.

“The judiciary cannot be misled by allegations based on political vendetta. It is extremely unfortunate that there have been several attempts of targeting the BJP and assassinating the character of its top leaders on the basis of fake facts’. These attempts have failed miserably once again,” Singh said on Twitter.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleging that the case was driven to promote interest of Congress.

“I want to ask Rahul Gandhi some questions. You are a national party president. What do you have to say today about the court’s verdict? Will you forward your politics through court alleys because people are rejecting you? This wasn’t a case of public interest but driven to promote Congress interest,” he said.

He said the case was filed to damage BJP in general and Amit Shah in particular.

“This was to malign Shah. BJP condemns reckless allegations against Shah. We were quiet because court proceedings were underway. The biggest tragedy is that to settle political scores, even judiciary is scandalised. Even CJI said this,” Prasad added.

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