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Petitioners tried to 'scandalise judiciary', Court not the venue to settle political scores: SC rejects plea for SIT probe into Judge BH Loya's Death

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 19, Apr 2018, 11:49 am IST | UPDATED: 19, Apr 2018, 12:45 pm IST

Petitioners tried to 'scandalise judiciary', Court not the venue to settle political scores: SC rejects plea for SIT probe into Judge BH Loya's Death

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge BH Loya. The apex court said that there is no reason to disbelieve the Judicial Officers in the Judge Loya death case and ruled that investigation reveals that he died of natural causes.

The SC also said that frivolous and motivated petitions should be discouraged. The CBI judge was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case at the time of his death.

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed petitions seeking an independent investigation into the death of special CBI judge Brijmohan Harikishan Loya. Stating that the death was “due to natural causes,” a three-judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said that there was no merit in the pleas and that the petitioners tried to “scandalise judiciary.”

Announcing the order, the top court said that the petitions were a “veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary” and that “there is no reason to doubt the statements of sitting Judge.” The bench also said that the “petitioners’ conduct prima-facie constitutes criminal contempt,” but the court “would spare them of any contempt action.”

Records show Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh “fake encounter” case in which BJP president Amit Shah was named as an accused, died of a heart attack in 2014. Loya’s death became a controversy following a report in Caravan magazine, which quoted Loya’s sister and father suggesting foul play and cover-up in the incident. A subsequent investigation by The Indian Express brought out that several claims in the report were not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records.

The Bombay Lawyers’ Association subsequently moved the Bombay High Court, seeking a probe in the matter. PILs were filed in the Supreme Court. The apex court transferred the petitions in Bombay HC to itself and heard all of them together.

Appearing for the lawyers’ association, senior advocate Dushyant Dave sought to punch holes in the official version of the death, while Harish Salve representing Maharashtra said the claims were politically motivated. Stating that the case was being politicised since a person heading a political party was involved in it, Salve rejected the foul play claims.

The top court today trashed the questions raised by the petitioners over Loya’s stay at Ravi Bhavan, where he is said to have spent the night of November 30, 2014 while in Nagpur to attend a wedding. Taking the Loya case as an example, the court in its order also lamented over the increasing instances of misuse of PILs. Stating that the bench was not spared by the petitioners and that serious attacks were made against the credibility of the two Bombay High Court judges, the court said it “should not be made the venue to settle political scores .”

The Opposition had also launched an attack against the BJP, saying that democracy was under threat when lawyers are jeopardized for doing their duty. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also met president Ramnath Kovind seeking an independent probe in the case. The memorandum handed over to the President was signed by 114 MPs from 15 parties.

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan called the SC order very unfortunate. Saying that despite ECG report denying any signs of heart attack and family raising doubts over death, the court chose to believe four judicial officers who had not signed affidavits. Bhushan had alleged foul play in the death of the Judge.

While dismissing the petitions the three-judge bench, of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar, also questioned the motive behind the pleas and observed that it was an attack on judicial independence. A batch of pleas, including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and Maharashtra-based BS Lone, was filed in the top court seeking an independent probe into Judge Loya's death in 2014.

Listing the case for Thursday, the apex court had earlier asked the Maharashtra Government to submit the postmortem report of the late CBI judge. The Maharashtra government had argued in the apex court that all pleas seeking an independent probe into Loya's death were motivated and aimed at targeting "one individual" in the guise of upholding the rule of law.

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