Judge Loya Death Probe PIL To Be Heard By CJI Bench On Monday

In an interesting turn of events, the Petitions seeking independent probe into Judge Loya’s Death will be heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Monday.

The Apex Court had, on Tuesday, adjourned the proceedings after the Maharashtra Government had filed all documents pertaining to it before the Court in a sealed cover. The Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice M. Shantanagoudar had also asked Senior Advocate Harish Salve to provide copies of the documents to the Petitioners- Mr. Banduraj Sambhaji Lone and Mr. Tehseen Poonawalla. The Court had then directed the matter to be placed "before the appropriate bench", hinting towards the PIL being moved to a new Bench.

The two Petitions before the Court demand an independent probe into the mysterious death of CBI Special Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya in 2014, when he was presiding over the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. The 48-year old Judge had died of a cardiac arrest in Nagpur, where he had gone to attend a wedding on December 1, 2014. The Caravan had then carried two reports quoting several immediate members of Judge Loya's family, who had questioned the circumstance surrounding his death.

In addition to the Petitions before the Apex Court, two similar Writ Petitions are also pending before the Bombay High Court, one by the Bombay Lawyers' Association and the other by one Suryakant Lodge.

The case has created quite a storm, with 470 members of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar writing to the CJI and seeking a probe into the death. This letter was forwarded to the Supreme Court Judges and the Acting Chief Justice of Bombay High Court as well. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave had also lent his support to the demand for an independent investigation into the incident.

The tipping point

It may be recalled here that the issues surrounding Judge Loya's death are being considered as the tipping point for the unprecedented press conference that was held on Friday. Justice J. Chelameswar, who has been the rebel within the collegium for a while now, had addressed the press conference, flanked by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph.

The quartet had then asserted that the administration of the Apex Court is "not in order" and that many "things less than desirable" have been happening in the last few months. The major bone of contention for the four Judges was assignment of matters. The letter written by them to the CJI two months ago had acknowledged that the CJI is the master of the roster, but had asserted that this is "not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues". It had then stated that while there are well-settled conventions guiding the Chief Justice in the task, off late such conventions have not been strictly adhered to.

However, despite the conference, there was no change in the composition of the Constitution Bench that is going to commence hearing from 17 January.  The Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan will be hearing eight important cases referred to it.

These include petitions relating to the constitutionality of Aadhaar, entry of women in Sabarimala and change of religious identity of Parsi woman. It will also reconsider earlier judgments which had upheld IPC sections penalizing adultery and homosexuality. You may read more about the cases here.