A three-judge Supreme Court bench – comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud – as now been assigned to hear the pleas seeking an independent probe into Judge BH Loya’s death.
The matter had initially come up for hearing before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and MM Shantanagoudar. The next date of hearing is 22 January.
The case was the bone of contention of the unprecedented press conference, called by four of the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court on 12 January, to allege “selective allocation” of cases.
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CJI Misra said on 19 January that an appropriate bench of the apex court would hear the petitions filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla and Maharashtra journalist BS Lone.
Advocate Varinder Kumar Sharma – appearing for Poonawalla – said they wanted clarification on the date of hearing of the petition in the wake of the order passed by a bench of Justices Mishra and Shantanagoudar.
Three-judge benchList the matters on 22 January before the appropriate bench as per the roster.
Court Proceedings So Far
A bench headed by Justice Mishra had, on 16 January, ordered the matters to be listed before an appropriate bench, and had not fixed any specific date for hearing.
It had 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 during the hearing opposed the petitioners’ demand that the entire material should be handed over to them for perusal.
The apex court, in its 16 January 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”.
Also Read: Judge Loya’s Case: SC Leaves It to Maha Govt to Hand Over Docs
What is the Case About?
Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, had allegedly died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on 1 December 2014, when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
In the encounter case, BJP President Amit Shah, along with Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, Rajasthan-based businessman Vimal Patni, former Gujarat police chief PC Pande, Additional Director General of Police Geeta Johri and Gujarat police officers Abhay Chudasama and NK Amin, have already been discharged.
The issue of Loya’s death had come under the spotlight in November 2017 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 14 January said in Mumbai that his father died of natural causes and not under suspicious circumstances.
The court had earlier termed as “serious matter” the issue of Loya’s death and had asked Maharashtra government to file certain documents, including the autopsy report.
Poonawalla’s counsel 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 his plea, he had claimed that circumstances revolving around the death of the judge were “questionable, mysterious and contradicting”.
The other plea filed by the journalist has submitted that a fair probe was needed into the mysterious death of Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin encounter case in which various police officers and BJP president Amit Shah were named as parties.
A PIL seeking probe into the judge’s death was also filed before the Bombay High Court on 8 January by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association.
The Indian judiciary was thrown into a turmoil on 12 January, when four senior apex court judges, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph, had convened an unprecedented press conference raising some issues, including “selective” allocation of cases by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The cases indicated by them included this case.
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