NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a clutch of public interest petitions (PILs) seeking an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, saying the judge died of natural causes and the PILs were “veiled attempts to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and to dilute the credibility of judicial institutions”.
The petitions had raised questions about the circumstances that led to the death of the judge in 2014 when he was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter killing case in Gujarat. The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the report by Sanjay Barve, Director General and Commissioner in the State Intelligence Department, which stated that the judge suffered a heart attack in the presence his colleagues. The bench categorically stated there was no reason to doubt the statements of the judicial officers on the circumstances leading to Loya’s death.
In a strongly-worded 114-page judgment, the bench expressed concern over the practice of ‘brazen misuse of PILs’ by ‘persons with personal agenda’ and noted that the system had become a tool for advocates seeking publicity and was ‘used by petitioners at the behest of business or political rivals to settle scores’.
The bench noted that such ‘frivolous or motivated petitions’ detract the time and attention which courts must devote to genuine cases. It said PILs are meant to be a tool for people unable to seek justice by reasons of their poverty, ignorance or illiteracy and are faced with a deprivation of fundamental human rights.
The judgment, authored by Justice D Y Chandrachud, came down heavily on the petitioners and the submissions by their lawyers during the course of the hearing and described the pleas as impinging on the credibility of the judges. The bench reproached the insinuations by lawyers Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaising, and advocate Prashant Bhushan against the members of the judiciary. It further criticised the petitioners for seeking recusal of Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud because they were also from Maharashtra and could have known the fellow judicial officers whose credibility were being questioned.
What the SC said
The judicial officers who travelled to Nagpur with Loya for a wedding and stayed with him in a guest house had given truthful accounts of what happened and there was no reason to disbelieve them
It will be in larger public interest to uphold judiciary’s independence by trusting their statements
There were attempts (by petitioners) to cast aspersions on judges, serious attempts to scandalise the court and administration of justice
Loya’s death shall be put to rest and no other court shall entertain any plea in this regard