On Monday, the Supreme Court continued to hear arguments on whether or not a court-monitored special investigation team is needed to inquire into the death of Judge BH Loya. As with previous hearings, there were heated arguments between the lawyers representing the different sides, including allegations of conflict of interest and impropriety.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) also filed an Intervention Application in the court in support of a special probe, arguing that medical experts who have examined Judge Loya’s ECG and histopathology reports do not believe that he died of a heart attack. The judges agreed to hear the application by CPIL, who are represented by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan.
Dushyant Dave Critical of Lawyers, Judges
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, arguing in favour of the special probe, engaged in a controversial war of words with Harish Salve and ASG Tushar Mehta on the other side.
He began by pointing out that judges who “stood in the way”, like Judge Loya, had been punished. This comment was in reference to the fact that the judges who have been involved in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case and been critical of its handling have either faced misfortune (like Judge Loya) or been transferred (like Judge Utpat, Loya’s predecessor, or Justice Revati Mohiti-Dere who was recently transferred from hearing appeals against discharge in the Bombay High Court).
In contrast, according to Dave, the judges who have not “stood in the way”, have been rewarded. He referred here to Justice Mohit Shah, former Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, who had, according to The Caravan, allegedly offered a bribe of Rs 100 crore to Judge Loya.
Dave also criticised the two sitting judges who had given interviews to The Indian Express in which they had asserted that Judge Loya had died of a heart attack and there was nothing suspicious about his death.
Salve and Tushar Mehta objected to these statements by Dave, saying it was improper to say such things about sitting judges of the courts and they objected to this as officers of the court. Dave retorted that “sitting judges are not holy cows” and that it was “unfortunate” that the judges had acted the way they did.
He then took aim at Tushar Mehta, who, he pointed out, had appeared for Amit Shah (who had been the main accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case till being discharged by Judge Loya’s successor) multiple times. He also said that given Salve’s seniority, he should have been the leading light on this issue.
Eventually, Justice Khanwilkar told Dave to check himself after the senior advocat said he “had not seen a case in which the entire judiciary is at the beck and call of one person.” Justice Chandrachud also took offence to Dave’s statement that the Supreme Court is trying to “wish away everything” in the case, and said they didn’t want to make any judgments about High Court and district court judges.
Expert Medical Opinions Rule Out Heart Attack?
Prashant Bhushan told the court that CPIL had contacted various cardiology experts to assess the ECG and histopathology reports reports from Judge Loya’s death. The Caravan had already obtained the opinion of Dr RK Sharma, former head of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at AIIMS, to say that there was no “myocardial infarction” (the technical term for a heart attack). Dr Sharma had also found that there was congestion in several organs which was inconsistent with a heart attack.
CPIL contacted cardiologist Dr Upendra Kaul, a Padma Shri-recipient, to obtain his professional opinion about Judge Loya’s death. He agreed that the ECG showed no evidence of a myocardial infarction, and that the congestion in other organs would not have been caused by a heart attack, but something else. Dr Kaul and the other experts CPIL contacted also opined that there was no damage to the late Judge Loya’s heart muscle, which again contradicts the story that he died of a heart attack.
The CPIL application also goes on to criticise the arguments by the state of Maharashtra, which it claims are based solely on the statements of four judges, two of whom were purportedly with Judge Loya on the night he died. None of these judges have provided affidavits affirming their position, and, according to CPIL, even if their versions are accurate, they could apply to other causes of death (such as poisoning) just as much as a heart attack.
On this basis, CPIL argues that there are serious doubts about the cause of Judge Loya’s death, which warrants an “independent investigation by a high powered team” monitored by the Supreme Court.
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