NEW DELHI: Heated exchanges between senior lawyers today marked the hearing of the pleas relating to the death of special CBI judge B H Loya in the Supreme Court, which also took umbrage at some advocates for dragging the name of BJP chief Amit Shah and pre-judging its order.
The high-voltage hearing saw Maharashtra government's senior counsel Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi entering into a verbal duel with their senior counterparts Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaising.
After hard-hitting remarks from a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra against Jaising for inferring that a gag order on the media was likely to be passed in the case, the senior advocate immediately tendered an unconditional apology as the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, asked her to withdraw her submission.
However, the major spat was witnessed between Salve and Dave, who was also unhappy with another senior advocate Pallav Shishodia raising the demand on behalf a person seeking an independent probe into Loya's death.
Dave, appearing for Bombay Lawyers' Association, objected to Salve appearing for the Maharashtra government.
"Mr Salve had earlier appeared for Amit Shah, now Rajya Sabha MP, in the case and now switched side. This is a serious case of conflict of interest. This matter calls for judicial indulgence as there are serious contradictions," Dave alleged.
When Salve tried to interrupt, Dave said, "Mr Salve, you have done enough damage to the institution. Your Lordships should not permit Mr Salve to address the court in this matter".
Salve retorted "Some people like to make statements.
Court should not allow them to make such remarks in this court. This is abuse of the process of law".
Dave shot back "Don't give me lectures on morality. You are the one who does that".
In response, Salve said "I dont need your certificate".
The apex court expressed its anguish against Dave for dragging the name of Shah and other persons including a former chief justice of Bombay High Court in the case and said "as of today, it (Loya's death) is a natural death".
Senior advocate Pallav Shishodia, appearing for one of the petitioners in the case, also traded charges with Dave, who apparently smelled a rat at his (Shishodia's) appearance against Maharashtra Government.
Shishodia, who was appearing for a petitioner seeking an independent probe into the death of Loya, had also appeared for the accused earlier, Dave claimed.
When Shishodia tried to argue in the matter, he was interrupted by Dave who said, "Mr Shishodia, the Bar will judge you".
To this, Shishodia said, "Bar has already judged you, Mr Dave. The judgment has not been very flattering. Mr Dave is the self-appointed conscience keeper for everyone, but unfortunately everyone rejects the advice..." He was referring apparently to Dave recently losing the election of the Supreme Court Bar Association President to senior advocate Vikas Singh, who has openly criticised him (Dave) for questioning the hearing of the case before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra. Justice Mishra had later recused himself from hearing the two PILs on Loya's death.
Shishodia asked Dave to "show equal passion and anger on merits" and come forward with some "credible material if the death of Judge Loya is otherwise than natural".
To this, the bench while considering the objections made by Salve and Rohatgi said, "Exactly, as of today, death of district judge Loya is a natural death. Then, do not cast aspersions".
Rohatgi said that Dave cannot address the court in the matter, as no intervention can be allowed in this case.
The bench, then intervened and said, it cannot allow the matter to be "deflected by referring to conflict of interest" and the matter should be "left to Bar's conscience" to decide as to who should appear for whom.