The Supreme Court has said the controversy surrounding the death of Special CBI court judge B. H. Loya is “serious” and it will look into the circumstances leading to his death in November 2014. Judge Loya was holding the trial into the staged shootout deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and two others.
“Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have,” the bench said as it directed all the parties to file whatever material they have relating to Loya’s death and the circumstances leading to it and set the next hearing for February 2.
Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Bombay Lawyers Association, and Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervener, said that the records being produced by the Maharashtra government were not complete as they pointed to some documents they had accessed through RTI.
“There is no question of restricting the records. Prepare a compilation of the record,” Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said allowing both the sides to file whatever documents they had in their possession.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud also transferred to itself two petitions pending before the Bombay High Court and its Nagpur bench relating to the matter.
At the outset of the hearing, Dave objected to senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra, saying that it was “not fair” for him to appear for the state government after appearing for BJP President Amit Shah, and that he has “done enough damage to the institution” and “there is a conflict of interest”.
He sought the appointment of amicus curiae to assist the court, but the court was not moved.
“We are on the circumstances leading to the death of Judge Loya. Let us not comment who is appearing for whom,” said Justice Chandrachud.
In a face-off between Dave and Salve, Dave said: “Entire institution is trying to protect one man – Amit Shah and Amit Shah alone” whom he described as “politician of great excellence”.
At this, Salve objected, saying: “What is this Amit Shah, Amit Shah. You are blaming somebody in the court behind his back. You can’t caste aspersion on somebody. You can’t jump three steps and pass comments just because he happens to be a prominent politician.”
As in the course of the arguments, Dave raised the pitch, the court intervened, saying that all the counsel appearing in the matter should assist it to “examine the documents objectively” and assuring that it would order the probe if needed.
As Dave, at one point, said that “as of today, it is a natural death”, Justice Chandrachud said: “If as on today, it is a natural death, you can’t cast aspersions. Let us look at the material objectively, so that we are not blamed that we did not look at the material dispassionately.”
In another face off between the rival lawyers, Jaising objected to Salve saying that the confidentiality of whatever material they will share with the counsel for petitioners and interveners be maintained and not shared with media, noting that it is like seeking a gag order against media.
As Justice Chandrachud said that “He is not saying gag the press. He is just saying …”, Jaising countered: “It means the same.”
As she said that court should not pass any order on Salver’s plea, the CJI asked if the court had said anything.
“Did we utter a word? Did we say gag? You can’t say order of the court. We are just discussing the matter,” he told Jaising asking her to withdraw her statement and apologise. She complied.
However, Dave said that if two judges in the Loya matter can address a press conference, why can’t the nation discuss it. He said that if the matters of Shashi Tharoor and P. Chidambaram can be discussed in the media, then why not the Loya matter.