Pleas on Loya’s death serious but don’t cast aspersions: SC

(Eds: With additional inputs)

New Delhi, Jan 22 (PTI) The Supreme Court today dubbed as “serious” the issues raised in the pleas relating to the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, but castigated a senior lawyer for raking up the name of BJP president Amit Shah in the case.

The apex court, which decided to look into “all documents with utmost seriousness” connected with the death of Loya, who was trying the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, also took umbrage at senior advocate Indira Jaising, who during the hearing, inferred a possible future order that the apex court may gag the media in the case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which was hearing two PILS on the Loya’s death in 2014 transferred to itself the two other petitions pending at Nagpur and Mumbai benches of the Bombay High Court.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, restrained all the high courts in the country from entertaining any petition relating to Loya’s death.

Loya, who was hearing the sensitive 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.

The bench asked the parties to catalogue all documents relating to Loya’s death which have not been filed so far, and submit them for its perusal on February 2, the next date of hearing. “We must look into all documents with utmost seriousness”, it said.

The bench got irked when senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for a Bombay lawyers’ body which has filed a PIL in the high court there, took the name of BJP president Amit Shah during the hearing, alleging that everything has been done to protect him (Shah).

“As of today, it is a natural death. Then, do not cast aspersions,” the bench said while considering the strong opposition on the issue by senior advocate Harish Salve, the counsel for Maharashtra government.

During the hearing, CJI Misra got angry when activist lawyer Jaising inferred a possible future order that the apex court may gag the media in the case.

“This is not fair to me. This you cannot do,” the CJI lamented and asked Jaising to retract and apologise forthwith.

Jaising retracted her statement and tendered an apology.

Earlier, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had recused itself from hearing two petitions, filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla and a Maharashtra journalist B S Lone on the issue, and had said that the matter be posted before “an appropriate bench”.

In persuance of that order, these two matters were listed today before the bench headed by the CJI.

Four senior-most apex court judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — at their Hanuary 12 press conference had questioned the manner in which sensitive cases were being allocated and Loya’s case was one of them.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had on January 19 posted the pleas seeking an independent probe into the alleged mysterious death of Loya for today by directing listing of petitions before “an appropriate bench”.

The same bench on January 16 had also left it to the Maharashtra government to decide which documents, relating to Loya’s death, could be handed over to the petitioners.

The state government, which had filed documents in a sealed cover relating to Loya’s death, had opposed the petitioners’ demand that the entire material should be handed over to them for perusal.

The apex court, in its January 16, order said, “Let the documents be placed on record within seven days and if it is considered appropriate, copies be furnished to the petitioners. Put up before the appropriate bench”.

In the encounter case which was being heard by Loya, the BJP President along with Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande, Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri and Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama and N K Amin, have already been discharged.

The issue of Loya’s death had come under the spotlight in November last year after media reports quoting his sister had fuelled suspicion about the circumstances surrounding his death and its link to the Sohrabuddin case.

However, Loya’s son had on January 14 said in Mumbai that his father died of natural causes and not under suspicious circumstances.

The counsel for petitioners had told the court that this was a case of alleged mysterious death of a judge, who was hearing a sensitive case, and an independent probe was required.

In the pleas, it has been claimed that circumstances revolving around the death of the judge were “questionable, mysterious and contradicting”.

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