The Supreme Court today left it to the Maharashtra government to decide which documents, relating to the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, could be handed over to the petitioners who have sought an independent probe into it. The state government, which 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 order which was uploaded on its website late in the evening, 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”. After the order was uploaded, the standing counsel for Maharashtra said their team of lawyers, including senior advocate Harish Salve, would scan and verify all the documents in consultation with the concerned department and take a call on the issue of handing over the documents.
The case, whose assignment to the bench hearing the PILs was a bone of contention of the unprecedented press conference by the four senior-most judges of the apex court, came up for hearing before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and M M Shantanagoudar. Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh 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. When the counsel for the petitioners today said they should be given copies of the documents the state government has submitted to the court, the bench had observed, “it is a matter where they should know everything”. The issue had come under the spotlight in November last year after media reports quoting Loya’s 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. Earlier today, Salve, representing Maharashtra, placed before the bench the documents, including Loya’s postmortem report, in a sealed cover. He told the court that these documents contained certain confidential materials which should not be made public. When the petioners insisted that they should be given the copies, Salve said the confidentiality of these documents should be maintained and they should not be made public. “If anything is confidential, we will put confidential mark on that,” Salve said. The petitioners’ counsel had then assured the top court that they would not make any of the documents public.
The bench, without specifying any date, adjourned the case and said it would be listed for hearing after a week. “We are not fixing any date,” the bench said during the brief hearing in the jam-packed courtroom. The apex court was hearing two separate PILs, filed by Maharashtra-based journalist B R Lone and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla, seeking independent probe into the alleged mysterious death of Loya. The court had earlier termed as a “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 earlier told the court that this was a case of alleged mysterious death of a judge, who was hearing a sensitive case, and it was required to be probed independently.
In his plea, he has 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 January 8 by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association. The Indian judiciary was thrown into a turmoil on January 12 when four senior apex court judges, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B 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.
In the encounter case, 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. A total of 23 accused, including police personnel, are facing trial for their involvement in the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and their associate Tulsidas Prajapati in Gujarat in November 2005. The case was later transferred to CBI and the trial was shifted to Mumbai.