Judge Loya death: Five petitions have been listed for judgement at 10.30 am on Thursday before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. (File Photo)
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge Brijmohan Harikishan Loya. The top court, ruling that the death was due to “natural causes”, observed that the petitioners tried to scandalise the judiciary. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, pronounced its verdict after hearing a clutch of petitions.
Records show that Loya died of a heart attack in Nagpur, Maharashtra, on December 1, 2014. The petitioners, however, had moved the top court alleging he died under “mysterious” circumstances. At the time of his death in 2014, he was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh “fake encounter” case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was named an accused. Shah was later acquitted in the case.
There were heated exchanges between the counsels for the petitioners and the state of Maharashtra during the hearing. While the petitioners raised questions on the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death, the state had called the claims motivated.
While rejecting a probe, the Supreme Court said "we can't doubt the statements of the judicial officers who were with Loya" in his last hours. Judges J Kulkarni, J Barde, J Modak and JRR Rathi say the death of Judge Loya was "natural and unfortunate".
Five petitions called for an independent inquiry after questions were raised about the death last year. In an interview to The Caravan magazine, Judge Loya's sister Anuradha Biyani questioned the circumstances of his death. Another relative alleged that Judge Loya was offered a huge bribe and was under immense mental pressure.
The Maharashtra police rubbished the family's claims.
As speculation peaked, Judge Loya's son Anuj Loya said in January that the family no longer had any suspicion about the death. "There was some suspicion before due to emotional turmoil, but now it is clear," Anuj Loya told reporters.
The Maharashtra government told the top court that the petitions were motivated and the judge's death was being politicized since he was connected with a criminal case in which a person heading a political party had been discharged.
The Bombay Lawyers Association has said it will study the judgement and explore legal remedies like a review petition to have the Supreme Court revisit its order.
Soon after the verdict today, the ruling BJP hit out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had led a delegation of over 100 parliamentarians to the President to ask for an investigation into the judge's death.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged the "invisible hand" of Rahul Gandhi in the petitions, which, he added, were a way of settling political scores against Amit Shah. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tweeted that "Rahul does not want anyone other than Gandhi family to run the country."
The case was headlined by the opposition, which said there was a threat to democracy when lawyers and judges working on important cases were targeted.
"Indians are deeply intelligent. Most Indians, including those in the BJP, instinctively understand the truth about Mr Amit Shah. The truth has its own way of catching up with people like him," Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
The Congress had alleged that besides Judge Loya, two men he reportedly confided in about pressure and threats -- lawyer Shrikant Khandalkar and district judge Prakash Thombre -- died mysteriously. In 2015, lawyer Shrikant Khandalkar fell to his death from the sixth floor of a district court building. The next year, Prakash Thombre fell from the top berth inside a train coach and his spine broke.
The Judge Loya case was at the centre of an unprecedented rift within the Supreme Court earlier this year. The case was reassigned after four most senior judges went public with the allegation that the chief justice was assigning cases with "far-reaching consequences" to junior judges.--NDTV