The Maharashtra government on Monday told the Supreme Court that petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of Judge B.H. Loya were obliquely motivated, based on unverified media reports and were being orchestrated "because there is a particular functionary of a political party".
The apparent reference to "a particular functionary of a political party" was to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah, who was one of the accused in the alleged Sohrabuddin Sheikh staged shootout case. However, Shah was later discharged in the case. Justice Loya was the judge of the Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court that was holding the trial of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh shootout case.
Saying that PILs seeking an independent probe were moved with "oblique motive", senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi referred to the statements of the four judges of the Bombay High Court, who reached Ravi Bhawan (in Nagpur, where Judge Loya was staying) within half-an-hour of Judge Loya complaining of chest pain and uneasiness. At the fag end of the hearing on Monday, senior counsel Dushyant Dave, who is appearing for PIL petitioner, the Bombay Lawyers Association, sought the copy of the communication sent by Commissioner of Intelligence to the four High Court judges for their statements.
Rohatgi said he has not seen it himself but added it would be made available to the senior counsel. Rohtagi told the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that if the court was to reject the statements of the judges who said Judge Loya's death was natural then it has to be prima facie accepted they were conspirators to his death.
He told the court the allegation is that Judge Loya met an unnatural death and did not die of medical ailment. Referring to the press conferences and demands being made to hold an independent probe into Judge Loya's death, Rohatgi said Loya's case was being politicised and "any further inquiry will only play into political hands..."
Rohatgi commenced his arguments referring to earlier pronouncements of the top court on PILs and said unverified media reports could not be legally admissible evidence. Attributing oblique motives to the PILs and that the trial in Sohrabuddin Sheikh case had commenced three years after the death of Judge Loya, Rohatgi told the bench: "It is not that they have any sympathy for judiciary or concern for Judge Loya."
Taking the court through the sequence of events starting with November 29, 2014, evening when Judge Loya, along with two other trial court judges, left Bombay to attend a wedding in Nagpur, till December 1, 2014, when Judge Loya passed away, Rohatgi said that at no point of time was Judge Loya alone.
Mocking at the concern being shown by the PIL petitioners -- social activist Tehseen Poonawala, Maharashtra-based journalist Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone, Bombay Lawyers Association and other interveners -- seeking independent probe into the death of Judge Loya, Rohatgi said everything started after a write-up appeared in the news magazine Caravan.
"No homework, no verification (of the content of the write-up) and you rely on hearsay and move the Supreme Court," Rohatgi said. Rohatgi will continue with his arguments on February 16.