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Plea to recall order against Loya probe

Loya

New Delhi: The Bombay Lawyers Association has petitioned the Supreme Court to recall its April 19 judgment that rejected a batch of pleas seeking a probe into the allegedly mysterious death of CBI special judge B.H. Loya in December 2014.

The review petition, moved on Wednesday but yet to be listed for hearing, argues the April judgment had brought about "miscarriage of justice if not complete negation of justice" by accepting a "self-serving" inquiry conducted of behalf of the Maharashtra government.

The Mumbai-based Loya was hearing a fake-encounter case in which current BJP president Amit Shah was an accused when he died at a wedding in Nagpur, apparently after a heart attack. Shah was discharged within days.

Last November, Caravan magazine reported the Loya family's suspicions over the death and their allegation about a senior judge trying to bribe Loya to let Shah off, prompting petitions from the Bombay Lawyers Association and others for a court-monitored probe.

Following this, the Maharashtra government conducted a "discreet inquiry" through a senior police officer, who spoke to four of Loya's colleagues who were with him at the time of his death, as well as two other judges, and ruled out foul play.

In April, the Supreme Court dismissed the pleas, accepting that Loya had died of "natural causes" and accusing the petitioners of promoting "a political agenda" in the name of public interest.

The review petition offers three arguments:

Caravan published its articles on November 20 and 21, and the Maharashtra government ordered an inquiry on November 23. How come the commissioner of state intelligence (who conducted the probe) wrote to Bombay High Court stating the names of six judges for permission to recording their statements when the "Caravan articles contained the name of only one judge, namely, hon'ble judge Barde"?

"So, how is it that within minutes of ordering the inquiry the commissioner, state intelligence, had gathered the names of (the) five other hon'ble judges as possible witnesses... when their names were not in the public domain at all?" the petition says.

"This clearly vitiates the inquiry since the officer had clearly made up his mind and was being guided on specific lines."#The state government had said that the names of the judges were on the register of the Nagpur guesthouse where they and Loya were staying.

• The commissioner of intelligence had merely "sought letters in an extremely short time without personally meeting the judges concerned", which makes his probe "improper and unwarranted".

"The collection of letters... does not bring truthfulness in the inquiry but shows an attempt to somehow collate and collect the letters to prepare a hurried report, which indeed was done on 28th November."

• In the Caravan articles, "the father and the sisters (of Loya) had spoken about the pressure on (him), the offers of bribe to him... the way the family was kept in (the) dark about the death and (the) post-mortem... the marks on his body and the position of clothes and spectacles, coupled with condition of the body", the petition says.

Some members of the Loya family have, however, recently said they no longer harbour any suspicions about the judge's death.

"These circumstances and observations clearly demanded that the hon'ble court should have ordered an independent investigation. Those statements could never have been wished away by a self-serving inquiry conducted of behalf of the state in a hurried manner," the petition says.

"This hon'ble court has committed serious errors apparent on the face of the record in not giving any weightage whatsoever to various loopholes, gaps and shortcomings in the inquiry report as were pointed out in the course of the hearing on behalf of the petitioner association."

On April 19, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud had castigated the petitioners for virtually branding Loya's colleagues as "co-conspirators" in his death.

It said: "The conduct of the petitioners and the intervenors scandalises the process of the court and prima facie constitutes criminal contempt.... By casting unfounded aspersions, the petitioners have revealed the real motive of these proceedings, which is to bring the judiciary into disrepute on the basis of scurrilous allegations."

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