New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of petitions seeking an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya’s death.
“There is no reason for the court to doubt the clear and consistent statements of the four judicial officers. The documentary material on the record indicates that the death of judge Loya was due to natural causes," the court ruled.
Loya died in December 2014 while presiding over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court hearing the high-profile case on the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a staged encounter with the police in 2005.
The judge’s death—which followed complaints of chest pain—became controversial after his family members alleged foul play in a magazine article published last year.
In their ruling, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud expressed anguish over the petitioners’ claims, calling them a serious attempt to “scandalize and obstruct the judicial process".
It would be a “travesty of justice" to malign the image of judges of the Bombay high court who were present with Loya before his death, it was added.
The court expressed “disbelief" over what it said was a misuse of public interest litigations to achieve vested interests for business, personal or political agendas, preventing the judiciary from attending to important matters.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to seize on the development to hit out at the Congress party.
“Court said political battles must be fought on political grounds. It clearly means that the case was fought as political battle against our party. I urge (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi not to fight political battles through corridors of court. This case was not activated to serve public interest but to serve the interests of Congress and damage the interests of BJP," said union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
But the Congress party said the court has left many unanswered questions.
“Today is a ‘Sad Letter Day’ in India’s history. Verdict of the Honorable Supreme Court has left many questions unanswered for all those seeking fair investigation and justice in the death of Judge Loya. BJP’s attempts to make false political capital out of Supreme Court judgment must be condemned," Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress spokesperson said in a statement.
Left parties demanded that the matter be reviewed by a larger bench.
The apex court was ruling on a batch of petitions, including one by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla and another by a Maharashtra-based journalist, seeking a probe into Loya’s death. These also include the two pleas that the apex court transferred to itself, including the one brought by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association (BLA).
Harish Salve, appearing for the Maharashtra government, had told the court that a discreet inquiry had been conducted into the circumstances of Loya’s death after media reports on the matter had surfaced.
According to the documents submitted to the court, four judicial officers who accompanied Loya to the hospital after he complained of chest pain have denied any foul play in their statements.
Loya died of a cardiac arrest on 1 December 2014 in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
Pretika Khanna contributed to this story.