SC asks Maharashtra govt to probe Judge B H Loya's 'mysterious' death

The Supreme Court has taken up the matter of the alleged mysterious death of special CBI court judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, amidst a rebellion by four senior judges against what they termed impropriety in the functioning of the apex judiciary (See: Senior Supreme Court judges revolt against Chief Justice).

The judges had taken up for hearing two writ petitions, seeking independent probe into the mysterious death of CBI special judge B H Loya in 2014, when he was presiding over the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. The writs were filed by Maharashtra-based journalist Banduraj Sambhaji Lone and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla, respectively.

The 48-year-old judge, who was hearing the CBI case in which BJP chief Amit Shah was an accused but later got discharged, had died of a cardiac arrest in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter on 1 December 2014.

The pleas seeking a probe followed two reports published in The Caravan magazine that quoted immediate members of Loya's family, who questioned the circumstances surrounding his death.

In addition to the petitions before the apex court, two similar writ petitions are also pending before Bombay High Court, one by the Bombay Lawyers' Association, and other by one Suryakant Lodge.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M M Shantanagoudar on Friday termed the alleged mysterious death of the judge as a ''serious matter'', and sought response from Maharashtra government on pleas seeking an independent probe into it.

''This matter requires bi-party hearing rather than exparte," the court said and asked Maharashtra government counsel Nishant R Katneshwarkar to file reply by 15 January.

However, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bombay Lawyers' Association, said the high court is seized of the matter and the apex court should not hear the pleas.

''The Bombay High Court is seized of the matter and in my opinion the Supreme Court should not hear this matter. If the court goes ahead with the hearing, it may have implications before the high court,'' Dave said.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for one of the petitioners, Maharashtra-based journalist B R Lone, said she has also instructions from the Bombay Lawyers' Association that this matter should not be heard by the top court. The bench, however, said it will look into the petitions but will also consider the objections raised.

Advocate Varinder Kumar Sharma, appearing for another petitioner Congress leader Tehseen Poonawala, said this is a case where a mysterious death of a judge has taken place on 1 December 2014 and it needs to be investigated. The bench then asked Katneshwarkar to file the mortem report and other relevant documents regarding the death of Judge Loya, besides taking instruction from the government.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on 15 January.