Supreme Court rules; Judge Loya died of natural causes

Judge Loya died of natural causes, rules SC while dismissing pleas seeking probe into his death

Judge B.H. Loya died of natural causes three years ago and there is “absolutely no merit” in the public interest litigation (PIL) petitions alleging foul play in his death, the Supreme Court concluded on Thursday.

The Supreme Court foreclosed any future questions on Judge Loya’s demise, saying its verdict spelt the end of any further litigation on the circumstances surrounding his death.Supreme Court
Conclusion based on three aspects

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud based its conclusion on three aspects: One, the “indisputable” written statements given by the four judges and colleagues of Judge Loya to the Maharashtra police; two, there is nothing wrong when friends and colleagues share the same room at the guest house, Ravi Bhawan; and three, Judge Loya had called his wife on November 30, 2014, telling her he was staying at Ravi Bhawan.
The statements by the judges were made to the police, which launched a “discreet enquiry” in 2017 after articles appeared in a magazine raising suspicions about Judge Loya’s death in Nagpur in November 2014.

Articles appeared in a magazine raised suspicions about Judge Loya’s death in Nagpur in November 2014. 

The verdict traces the journey of Judge Loya and his fellow judges to Nagpur to attend a wedding, their itinerary there and how they stayed in one room in Ravi Bhawan.

Judge Loya, at the time of his death was the CBI Special Judge hearing the 2005 Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. Mr. Shah was discharged from the case by Judge Loya’s successor in office.

PILs a “vituperative assault on judiciary”

Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the verdict, described the PILs as a “vituperative assault on the judiciary”. He said they were an example of misuse of judicial process and time when hundreds of litigants are waiting for their personal liberty.

Justice Chandrachud observed that the petitioners used the Supreme Court and their PILs as platforms to malign the Bombay High Court judiciary and the judicial officers who were with Judge Loya at the time of his death. At one point, the petitioners even wanted to “cross-examine” the judges who were with Judge Loya on their statements that said he died of a cardiac arrest.

Justice Chandrachud at one point wondered on the irony of why the petitioners first approached the Bombay High Court if they had no faith in its judges.

The judgment said the PILs were a “serious attack on the judiciary” and an attempt to “seriously scandalise” judges.

The PILs were an attempt to satisfy personal agendas and score over political rivals. The aura created by the petitioners that the PILs were meant to protect the independence of the judiciary – by seeking a probe into the death of Judge Loya – was a mere “facade”. The truth was that the petitioners wanted to sensationalise the death of a judge. The PILs were only a “veiled attempt to destroy the credibility of judiciary” with “scurrilious” claims.

‘Attempt to undermine public faith in judiciary’

To claims by petitioners that “one man” (Amit Shah) was controlling the judiciary was nothing but an attempt to undermine public faith in the judiciary and credibility of judicial process, the judgment said.

Justice Chandrachud said the petitioners should not use the courts to settle political scores. “Political rivalries should be settled in that great hall of democracy… Rule of law should not be reduced to a charade,” he observed.

The apex court said the petitioners’ claims and aspersions amounted to criminal contempt. But Justice Chandrachud said the court did not want to initiate contempt proceedings as judicial process should not be respected out of fear of contempt, but it is to be based on moral authority.

The verdict referred to how two of the judges on the apex court Bench, Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud, were even asked to recuse from hearing the Loya PILs as they were from the Bombay High Court and knew the judicial officers who were with Judge Loya.

Justice Chandrachud said they both decided to not “abdicate their duties” as they only answer to their judicial conscience and higher values.

“Industry of vested interests”

Justice Chandrachud described how PIL litigation had been brazenly misused to become an “industry of vested interests”.

The court flagged the avalanche of PILs entering the Supreme Court and the High Courts, creating arrears and severely taking a toll on court work.

The court dismissed the Loya PILs, holding that there was no reasonable suspicion to show that Judge Loya’s death was unnatural.

-NEW DELHI, APRIL 19, 2018

Supreme Court; Allocation of cases is CJI’s prerogative

 Supreme Court: Allocation of cases is CJI’s prerogative

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a high constitutional office entrusted with the duty to constitute Benches and allocate cases for the smooth dispensation of justice by the Supreme Court, the court held in a judgment on Wednesday while dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Asok Pande for a transparent and codified procedure for constitution of Benches and allocation of cases in the court.
Supreme CourtThe office of the CJI is an institution in itself, the judgment by a Bench,  also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar, observed.

Pronouncing the judgment on behalf of the Bench, Justice Chandrachud said, “There cannot be a presumption of distrust against the Chief Justice of India in his exclusive prerogative, granted by the Constitution, to set up Benches and allocate cases to judges.”

Second declaration

This is the second time the court has declared the CJI as the master of roster. On both occasions, Chief Justice Misra headed the Benches.  This time, the court said the question should be put to rest finally with Wednesday’s judgment.

Mr. Pande’s petition came up for hearing almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s number two judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, attacked the Chief Justice of India’s discretionary powers to constitute Benches and allocate cases.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed a PIL plea seeking framing of guidelines for allocation of cases

“Unfettered power is being exercised by the Chief Justices in the matter of formation of Benches, and so, the same is liable to be regulated through specific Rules,” the petition contended.

It said specific provisions should be incorporated in the Supreme Court Rules of 2013 that the three-judge Bench in the Chief Justice of India’s court should consist only of the Chief Justice of India and the court’s two senior-most judges. That is, in the present scenario, Chief Justice Misra and Justices Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi.

The petition demanded that the Constitution Bench of the court should consist of the five senior most judges — the CJI, Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph — or a combination of the three senior-most and two junior-most judges. That would be the CJI, Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi followed by Justices Navin Sinha and Deepak Gupta.

Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi – who is the next in line as CJI under the seniority norm, Lokur and Kurian, at a press conference held on January 12, accused the recent trend of CJIs selectively allocating cases to preferred Benches.

“Subject-wise roster” of cases

Subsequently, Chief Justice Misra published a “subject-wise roster” of cases to be handled by the Supreme Court judges. However, the roster did not ease criticism. As proof, Justice Chelameswar, responding to a question why all the important cases continue to be heard by Chief Justice Misra, responded rather drily: “He is the master of roster… If he [CJI Misra] has the energy to do the entire work, let him do it”.

Mr. Pande’s petition follows an earlier petition filed by former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan for a declaration that the authority of the CJI as ‘master of roster’ should not be reduced to an absolute, singular and arbitrary power.

Mr. Bhushan had specifically asked the Supreme Court Registry not to place his petition before a Bench of which Chief Justice Misra is a part of.