The much-awaited Supreme Court judgment in the Judge Loya case is a clear slap on those who seek to rope in the judiciary for pushing their own partisan political agendas. Ruling categorically and forcefully that there was no mystery surrounding the death of Justice B H Loya, and that he died of natural causes, a three-member bench of CJI Dipak Misra, Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, also rebuked the recalcitrant members of the Supreme Court who had addressed a press conference early this January to air their grievances against the CJI.
The clear and unambiguous verdict, written for the entire bench by Judge Chandrachud, also berated in no uncertain terms the petitioners’ lawyers Dushyant Dave, Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan. All three additionally were rapped for showing complete lack of institutional civility and for making wild allegations against the SC judges. Further, in a most welcome verdict, the court criticised the abuse of the legal tool of Public Interest Litigation to settle political, personal and corporate scores. A section of the activist media, too, most deservedly was ticked off in the clearest terms for publishing motivated reports and for maligning the judiciary. Judge Loya died of cardiac arrest in December 2014 in Nagpur where he had gone along with a few other judges to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. At the time, he was presiding over a CBI court which was hearing the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case. Among the accused was Amit Shah, now the BJP president.
It was claimed in a little-known magazine that Judge Loya died under suspicious circumstance, that he was offered Rs 100 crore to let off the accused but he refused, leading to his unnatural death. The report, clearly motivated by political elements out to malign Shah, received much play in the anti-BJP media. In particular, the Congress Party made much to-do, with Rahul Gandhi repeatedly suggesting the hand of the BJP chief in Judge’s Loya’s death. Of course, it was a cock and bull story right from the word go. The widely-respected newspaper, Indian Express, no friend of the ruling party, following up on the magazine’s scurrilous reportage, demolishing it point-by-point. But so obstinate were the warriors of fake news that they would not let go, quoting this or that relative of the deceased judge to bolster the false concoction of lies, half-truths and utter irrelevancies.
But because it is a human tendency to lend credence to such outlandish charges in the belief that there can be no smoke without fire, the doubts persisted. Until, that is, the three-member bench of the highest court demolished their house of cards built on wicked imagination and crude innuendoes. Anyone interested in the decline and fall of the political discourse, the abuse of the judicial process and, of course, the unscrupulousness and degradation of the media must read the judgment written by Judge Chandrachud. Misconduct of senior advocates in openly imputing motives to the judges in an open court, as witnessed during the course of the hearings in the Judge Loya case, came in for deserved condemnation. Lamenting the growing phenomenon of rank bad conduct by senior lawyers, who ought to know better, the court said the judiciary and judicial officers need to be saved from such elements.
Meanwhile, if you think that the judgment will induce contrition among those who had systematically carried on a vicious campaign based on falsehoods, you need to think again. Whether it is Rahul Gandhi or his courtiers in the Bar or in the media, it is more than likely that the malcontents will persist with their nonsense. Saying sorry takes courage, even character. These are men and women who have allowed partisan political agendas to kill their conscience, their sense of right and wrong. Indeed, Judge J Chelameswar, who suo motu passed an order in the Judge Loya case when the foul-tongued Dushyant Dave approached him, owes the CJI an apology. Of course, nothing of the sort can be expected since he revels in playing the dissident. Yet, whether or not the purveyors of lies and falsehoods on all sides regret dragging the highest court in their political fight, they stand thoroughly exposed as petty-minded people who will stop at nothing to achieve their narrow ends.