New Delhi: The Maharashtra government today opposed in the Supreme Court the pleas seeking an independent probe of the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, terming them as “motivated” and based on “yellow journalism”. Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, had died allegedly of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
“This hearing must come to an end after four judicial officers have recorded their statements. Either these judges will have to be believed or this court will have to say that they all are lying,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, told a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
Rohatgi objected to the submissions of senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for former Navy chief Laxminarayan Ramdas, and said that a person, who is seeking to intervene in the case, cannot be allowed to argue on facts and should confine oneself to the law. Jaising, who referred to sequence of events to highlight her submission that a probe was needed to rule out any foul play, alleged a trial court judge in the Sohrabuddin case was transferred in a “tearing hurry”.
Responding to her contention, Rohatgi said the trial in the case commenced six months back and that Jaising was raising the issue of the transfer of the judge hearing the case in 2014. He also referred to the apex court order that the special CBI judge hearing the case will not be transferred once the trial starts.
“Do you want to say that I have filed a motivated application,” Jaising asked, adding that she did not care. “Yes, this is a motivated petition based on yellow journalism,” Rohatgi replied, adding that judicial time should not be wasted in this manner.
At the outset, Jaising referred to the first police report in the death of Loya, and said that requisites of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) were not followed. After preparing the inquest report under Section 174 of CrPC, the police should have filed its report before the judicial magistrate concerned which was not done, she said. Even the name of the deceased judge was “misspelt” in the records despite the claim that four judges accompanied him to hospitals and this gave rise to suspicion, she said.
Dr Prashant Rathi, to whom Loya’s body was handed over, was not his close blood relative, she said. Moreover, the ‘panchanama’ of Loya’s belongings was not done by police, she said, adding the mobile phone of the deceased was returned to his family after five days. Noting that the case diary was the most “crucial” document to ascertain the veracity of the sequence of events, she said police claimed that ECG was done on Loya at a hospital, but the report has not been filed before the court.
Jaising referred to the statement of judge R R Rathi, who had accompanied Loya to hospitals and said that ECG machine was not functioning at the hospital where he was taken first on the fateful morning of December 1, 2014. Loya had no clinical history of any heart ailment and this has to considered while ascertaining the cause of the death, she said, and insisted on an independent probe monitored by the apex court.
At the fag end of the hearing, the bench objected to the reference of Justice Chandrachud’s observations in the written submissions filed by All India Lawyers Association, an intervenor in the case. “How can you make observations in the open court part of your note? This can’t be done,” the bench said, adding that questions asked during the hearing did not indicate the opinion of the judges.
The bar body promptly said it would delete the part of the submission containing observations of Justice Chandrachud. The bench would resume hearing the pleas on February 12. The bench is hearing pleas including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and Maharashtra-based B S Lone seeking an independent probe into Loya’s death in 2014.
The top court had earlier transferred to itself pleas pending in the Bombay High Court on Loya’s death and restrained other courts from entertaining any petitions relating to it. BJP chief Amit Shah was an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case which had happened when he was Minister of State for Home in Gujarat. He was, however, later discharged.