Don't reduce SC to fish market, Loya bench tells lawyers

The Supreme Court on Monday warned that the courtroom should not be reduced to ''a fish market" after heated exchanges broke out among senior lawyers during the hearing of cases relating to the death of Special CBI Judge B H Loya, forcing the judges too to shout the lawyers down.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is hearing petitions seeking an independent investigation into the allegedly mysterious death of Loya in 2014. The other two judges on the bench are Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar.

Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case when he died, apparently of cardiac arrest, in Nagpur on 1 December 2014 when he was attending the wedding of a colleague's daughter.

The bench took umbrage at the verbal duel between senior lawyers Dushayan Dave and Pallav Shishodia, calling it "unacceptable".

"Let us not reduce the dialogue in this court to the level of a fish market. You should not shout down a judge who is saying something. You will have to listen to me, Mr Dave ... you address (the court) when your turn comes," Justice Chandrachud said. Dave is representing the Bombay Lawyers Association.

"No, I will not. Your Lordships should have stopped them (Pallav Shishodia and Harish Salve) from appearing in this case. You will have to answer to your conscience," Dave retorted.

"Don't teach us about our conscience," the bench responded.

Shishodia, appearing for Maharashtra-based journalist Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone who has filed a Public Interest Litigation also seeking probe into the case, referred to two conflicting news reports and said that they have led to "insinuations on the integrity of our judicial system".

Shishodia then referred to the unprecedented press conference of four Supreme Court judges last month and said it also led to "open aspersions (being) cast on some of the judges of this court hearing the matter".

"In the circumstances, it is submitted that an independent probe cannot be one way traffic in which persons making allegations can just 'hit and run' without any responsibility to damages caused to the reputation, prestige and faith in institutions including this court and judiciary as whole," the senior lawyer said.

The assertions did not go down well with senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaising who said that if he (the journalist) did not want an enquiry then what was the need to file a petition?

Dave also criticised Shishodia using some harsh words and said that the submissions have exposed him alleging that the plea was filed to ensure that the matter is buried.

"You had appeared for Amit Shah and now you are appearing for the petitioner," Dave continued.

"Dave, we don't care what you say. You go to hell or heaven or wherever you want," Shishodia said in his response, prompting the court to intervene.

Justice Chandrachud asked Dave to listen and maintain the decency in court proceedings, saying "you will have to listen to the judge".

"I won't hear," Dave said, adding that Bar Council of India is issuing notices and is trying to infringe rights of lawyers like him from raising the voice and submitted that the bench should stop lawyers (Salve and Shishodia) from appearing in the instant matter as they have represented Amit Shah.

Taking note of exchange of words, the bench said, "This is unpardonable" and told the two lawyers (Dave and Shishodia) that their language was not good as this kind of dialogue would shame even a fish market.

"Courtesy begets courtesy," the bench said, adding that sometimes, the words used are "unbecoming" of a lawyer.

"Sometimes courtesy does not beget courtesy", Salve, who was appearing for Maharashtra, said.

Dave said that the State should be protecting citizens and only it has the resources to conduct an enquiry.

At the outset, senior advocate V Giri, appearing for Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawala, referred to alleged deficiencies in the probe conducted by Maharashtra State Intelligence Department (SID) in the case which had commenced after a letter was sent to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court by the SID.

"The State Intelligence Department has failed to explain how Post Mortem Report dated December 01, 2014 notes the date of death as December 07," Giri said.

The bench fixed the matter for further hearing on February 9.

The top court had earlier transferred to itself other pleas pending in the Bombay High Court and had restrained other courts from entertaining any petitions.