New Delhi, Maharashtra government today came down heavily on alleged accusations, bullying and browbeating of judges in the Supreme Court by some activist lawyers in the Judge B H Loya death case and said the judiciary and judicial officers need to be saved from such averments.
It said that fingers were being pointed by some lawyers on sitting judges of Bombay High Court and district judges and if the judiciary is in such a bad state, there is no point of judicial review and activism. “Please don’t allow this to happen. If this entire system dances to the tune of one man, as has been alleged, then we should wind up this institution. Time has come to stop this immediately,” senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra government, told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
Salve’s hard hitting submissions was targetted towards some activist lawyers like senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Indira Jaising and advocate Prashant Bhushan for allegedly making aspersions not only against the judges of the bench but also against the lawyers representing the state in the case.
Recalling an incident of 1978, Salve said that once Justice Y V Chandrachud in this court had reminded noted jurist Nani Palkhivala that speeches were made in Parliament and not in the court. “In my 40 years of career, such insinuations and accusations were never made. This shows where are we heading. This court has to stop this. Our Bar has risen to every occasion to represent a case. Speeches may be good in public life, in Parliament. It’s not between us and them. It was never between us and them. Please do not allow this to happen,” Salve said at the fag end of the hearing.
In the jam-packed courtroom, the bench sat to hear Salve’s argument for 20 minutes more than the apex court’s scheduled time of 4.00 pm. Salve was referring to the suggestions made by Dave, Jaising and Bhushan, that four judges including two high court judges who were along with the Special CBI judge Loya during his last moments be allowed to be examined.
“Are the four judges a part of murder conspiracy. Did they bump off their colleague (Loya)? What degree of proof does this court require to start an inquiry? Can the judges be allowed to be cross-examined? Do we now need to doubt their credibility? Has this system come to this disrepair? This court should not issue notice in the matter as it will be like doubting their credibility,” the senior lawyer said, posing a spate of questions.
Observing that fingers were pointed by the petitioners counsels on former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, he said “this court is robust enough to deal with these allegations and should not allow this practice to go on”.
He said the judges must enjoy the faith of higher judiciary or what else will the people who have got justice from the hand of these judges say, that they are murder accused. “Judges need to be protected and this court must protect them. Our district judges are the most vulnerable lot and they need to be protected more. If they are to be cross- examined, they will be examined as murder accused. They will be under tremendous pressure. Our system will stand condemned in which no enquiry will exonerate them,” Salve said in his emotive arguments.
While referring to the argument made by Bhushan that two judges Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud who have served in Maharashtra should not hear the matter, Salve said, “I say that that these two judges are from Maharashtra and this makes them more eligible for hearing this matter”.
During the hearing, Rohatgi, who also represented Maharashtra, refuted the charge that the ECG report of judge Loya was planted and did not show any indication that he had suffered a heart attack. “All these allegations are based on the articles in Caravan (magazine). Doctor of AIIMS forensic department and doctor at King Edward Memorial Hospital have denied any such suggestions that the ECG reports are not correct,” he said.
Rohatgi also countered the petitioners’ allegations that the FIR was not lodged in the case and asked whether the family members or friends lodge a complaint with police when there is no suspicion over the natural death of a person. Demolishing the arguments that there was no provision of “discreet inquiry” in the law, Rohatgi said the state does order “discreet inquiry” as per the vigilance manual when questioned are raised with regard to the death of eminent figure like politician, artist or judge, which is a regular routine.
Rohatgi’s arguments remained inconclusive and would continue on March 12. Yesterday, the apex court had taken umbrage against a senior lawyer for casting aspersions on judges that they were only asking “searching questions” to those who brought the B H Loya death case before it, and not to the Maharashtra government.
Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake 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.