It was ‘politics’ that made Judge Loya think of leaving the judiciary

The Supreme Court Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra is right in concluding that there is too much of politics in the courts

Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Uttam Sengupta

Supreme Court’s dismissal of petitions seeking an independent inquiry into the death of CBI special judge Brijgopal Harkishen Loya appears to have caused much elation in a section of the establishment and disappointed an equal number, if not more.

Leaders and spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party can scarcely hide their glee at the judgment, which, they are certain, has exposed a conspiracy to malign their leaders. Former Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi along with senior advocate Harish Salve had spiritedly opposed the petitions, which, they maintained, were an assault on the judiciary and designed to tarnish the image of several functionaries of the current government.

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar, not entirely unexpectedly, concurred with this proposition. The Bench is reported to have insinuated that the petitions were politically motivated and were meant to settle political scores and were therefore fit to be dismissed.

The Bench also had harsh words to say about Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and observed that PILs have become a tool in the hands of vested interests to promote private interest.

While one waits for the full judgment and is not sure on what material the Bench reached its conclusions, the order still raises more questions than it answers.

While judge Loya died of ‘natural’ causes on December 1, 2014 in Nagpur, his family members first raised doubts about his death in interviews they gave to Niranjan Takle in 2016. The report caused a sensation when it was published in The Caravan magazine in November, 2017.

The Supreme Court could well have ordered an inquiry, monitored the investigation and put all doubts at rest. But by ruling out an inquiry and in concluding that judge Loya’s death was natural merely because other judges said so, the apex court has merely served to keep the suspense and the mystery alive.

Was it politics that led to the Bombay High Court transferring the first trial judge, J.T. Utpat, without even informing the Supreme Court ? Were political considerations prompt judge Utpat to seek a transfer despite knowing the Supreme Court’s stipulation? Did politics prompt the administrative committee of the Bombay High Court to turn down his plea? Which were the considerations that persuaded the committee to change its stand?

Since the Bench has concluded that pleas for a probe were ‘politically motivated’, one is tempted to ask what sort of political considerations would have prompted the late Judge Loya to confide in family and his friends that he was under severe pressure to deliver a ‘favourable’ order on the discharge petition filed by BJP leader Amit Shah, later to become the party’s national president, in the Sohrabuddin Shah fake encounter case.

What kind of politics would have moved the late judge to tell his father that he would rather quit the judicial service and take to farming? Would politics have induced him to rule out the possibility of returning to a lawyer’s life?

Finally, would politics have influenced the teenaged son of the late judge to write an emotional letter in his own handwriting in which he described what his father had been going through, what he had been offered (₹100 Crore and a flat in Mumbai apparently) and who should be held responsible if something untoward were to happen to any member of the family!

Public memory being proverbially short, it is worth recalling the Supreme Court’s direction that the trial of the fake encounter case should be handled, from beginning to end, by the same judge.

The Supreme Court could well have ordered an inquiry, monitored the investigation and put all doubts at rest. But by ruling out an inquiry and in concluding that judge Loya’s death was natural merely because other judges said so, the apex court has merely served to keep the suspense and the mystery alive

Was it politics that led to the Bombay High Court transferring the first trial judge, JT Utpat, without even informing the Supreme Court ? Were political considerations prompt Judge Utpat to seek a transfer despite knowing the Supreme Court’s stipulation? Did politics prompt the administrative committee of the Bombay High Court to turn down his plea? Which were the considerations that persuaded the committee to change its stand?

The fact remains that Amit Shah, then an accused in the case, did not appear before the trial judge even once. Both Judge Utpat and Judge Loya had demanded his presence and admonished his lawyers in open court. They must have done so under the influence of politics. But it could not be ‘politics’ that led to the transfer of Judge Utpat and the sudden death of Judge Loya soon after they admonished the lawyers of Amit Shah?

While nobody can say with any certainty if they were a mere coincidence or were triggered by political interests, the fact is that the third CBI judge MB Gosavi acquitted Amit Shah within a fortnight of replacing the late judge Loya.

It was of course a ‘judicial’ order and not a ‘political’ one. Or, was it? One would never know now that the Supreme Court has closed the doors on an independent inquiry. That’s why the judgment would disappoint so many people.

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