In a surprise development, after the conclusion of hearing of arguments by the review petitioners in the Govindaswamy case, the Supreme Court bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C Pant and Uday Umesh Lalit, this afternoon, issued notice to the former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Markandey Katju, to appear in Court in person, and participate in the proceedings on November 11 at 2 p.m.
“We issue notice to Justice Markandey Katju, former judge of this Court and request him to appear in Court in-person and participate in the proceedings on 11th November,2016 at 2.00 p.m. as to whether the judgment and order dated 15th September, 2016 passed by this Bench in Criminal Appeal No.1584-1585 of 2014 suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction.”
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The order, read out by Justice Gogoi, after the conclusion of arguments, took everyone in the court room by surprise, as it was understood that the Court would reserve its judgment, after hearing the petitioners.
Justice Gogoi, who appeared to have come prepared with his decision to issue notice to Justice Katju, gave no inkling of his intention, during the hearing of the review petitioners. In fact, he cut short both the Attorney General ,Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate, Sidharth Luthura, saying that the bench has understood their contentions, and that they should take their orders.
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Justice Gogoi asked Rohatgi, who represented the State of Kerala, not to leave the court, after he finished his arguments, which appeared very unusual. Luthra represented Sumathi, mother of Soumya, the deceased.
Both the Kerala Government and Sumathi had filed review petitions, seeking reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s judgment dated September 15, which held Govindaswamy not guilty of murdering Soumya, even while convicting and sentencing him to life, for injuring and raping her.
Justice Gogoi told Luthra that the bench would give him more time beyond 4 p.m. when the court normally rises, so as to complete the arguments today. Luthra, who could not complete within the limited time, however, was told to sum up his arguments at 4 p.m. Then, at 4.30 p.m., Justice Gogoi, abruptly stopped Luthra, to begin dictating his order.
Justice Gogoi was heard telling both the AG and Luthra that the bench heard them suo motu, without even issuing notices, when they said they needed more time to make their submissions.
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Both Rohatgi and Luthra contended that the September 15 judgment was erroneous in that it missed the causal connection between Soumya’s injury No.1 and 2.
The Court, in its judgment, had accepted that Govindaswamy was responsible for her injury No.1 which she suffered in the moving train, but held that her injury No.2, which she suffered on the ground, and which proved to be fatal, was not caused by him.
For this, they relied on a statement of a middle-aged eyewitness, who could not be traced later. This eyewitness has reportedly told two other witnesses, that Soumya had escaped, and that they should not try to stop the train, in order to save her.
Rohatgi pointed out that the weight of evidence is that she could not have escaped, as told by that eyewitness, and therefore, this evidence was not reliable.
Also read: The Soumya Murder Case: The Supreme Court And The Causation Quagmire.
At the end of the arguments, the bench did not appear to be convinced at all by the submissions of the counsel, though it did not choose to express any opinion in the order, which was dictated.
The interest in the case has now shifted from the question whether Govindaswamy was guilty of murder to whether Justice Katju would accept the notice and appear in person on November 11.
Read the order here.