Lawyers inside the Supreme Court complex in New Delhi, India. (Source: Supreme Court of India Website)

Loya Case: Four Judges’ Statements ‘Unimpeachable’, Maharashtra Tells Apex Court

The Maharashtra government today told the Supreme Court that the statements of four judges, who were with special CBI judge BH Loya on the day of his death were “unimpeachable”.

Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had died allegedly of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on Dec. 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter.

“According to me, statements of four judges (J Kulkarni, J Barde, J Modak and JRR Rathi) are unimpeachable that the death of Loya was natural and unfortunate,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Maharashtra, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. “The judges were with Loya since Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2014. The statements were signed by the judges. Are not they trustworthy?”

If you (the court) want to reject the statements of the judges who said that Loya’s death was natural, then it has to be prima facie accepted that they were co-conspirators...
Mukul Rohatgi, Senior Advocate

Referring to judgements on public interest litigations, Rohatgi said the apex court amended its rules and laid down guidelines as to who can file PILs to ensure that motivated petitions are discouraged and not entertained. Alleging that petitioners were “creating castle in the air”, Rohatgi said the PILs cannot be based on unconfirmed and “hearsay” media reports solely, and the courts should verify the credentials of such petitioners.

Rohatgi said that the petitions, including those filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala and journalist BS Lone, had only relied upon unconfirmed news reports, published November last year onwards without any further detail. “Nobody, including PIL petitioners, did anything for last three years and now they have come out of slumber. They are saying that they want to protect the judiciary. However, they are standing for scandalising the judiciary,” Rohatgi said.

All the petitioners did not do anything on their own. This is just ‘cut-and-paste’ job. There was nothing amiss. The state is fully satisfied. It would be appropriate to bring the curtains down.
Mukul Rohatgi, Senior Advocate

Attributing motive on the petitioners, Rohatgi said press conferences are being held because the judge concerned was hearing a criminal matter in which a political figure was then accused.

The judges had given the statements after Police Commissioner (Intelligence) sought permission from the High Court Chief Justice, he said. Some high court judges, including the then chief justice, had also reached the hospital, he added.

About the petition of the Bombay Lawyers Association seeking an independent probe in Loya's death, he said that the list of its members, bye laws and registration number were not attached.

Rohatgi will resume arguments on Feb. 16.

Earlier, the state government had opposed the pleas for an independent probe into Loya's death, terming them as “motivated” and based on “yellow journalism”. Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervenor, had referred to sequence of events to highlight her submission that a probe was needed to rule out any foul play and alleged a trial court judge in the Sohrabuddin case was transferred in a "tearing hurry".

Current BJP President Amit Shah was an accused in the Soharabuddin Shaikh case, but was later discharged.