New Delhi: The counsel for the Bombay Lawyers Association moved an application Monday before the Supreme Court to cross-examine 11 persons, including two judges, in connection with the death of CBI special judge B H Loya in 2014.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave filed the application under Order XI of the Supreme Court Rules 2013 for Cross-Examination of: Sanjeev Barve, Director General/Commissioner, State Intelligence Department, Maharashtra; Dr Prashant Bajrang Rathi, Resident of Sai Regency, Ravi Nagar, Nagpur; Niranjan Takle, Reporter of Caravan; Srikant D Kulkarni, Member Secretary, Maharashtra State Legal Service Authority; S M Modak, Principal District Judge, Pune; Vijay C Barde, Additional Sessions Judge, City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay; Dr Pinak Gangadhar Rao, Dande, Ram Nagar, Nagpur; Anuj Brij Gopal Loya s/o Late B H Loya; Sharmila Brij Gopal Loya w/o Late B H Loya; Hari Kishan Ramchandra Loya, f/o Late B H Loya; and, Dr Anuradha Balaprasad Biyani, sister of Late B H Loya.
On Monday, petitioners in the case told the Supreme Court that there was no entry of Loya’s name in the register of Ravi Bhavan where he is said to have spent the night on November 30, 2014, while on a visit to Nagpur to attend the marriage of a colleague’s daughter. But the court pointed out that it had an entry in the name of the protocol officer of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court who usually makes bookings for judges whenever they are there on visits.
The hearing saw heated exchanges between the bench and Dave with the court making clear that it will be “undeterred by the banter on both sides”. “Look at the register. G P Bedre is possibly the protocol officer of the High Court at Nagpur who normally makes the request for booking rooms etc,” Justice D Y Chandrachud pointed out when senior advocate Indira Jaising produced photocopies of pages from the register of Ravi Bhavan register said it did not have Loya’s name.
But Jaising told the bench — headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, it also includes Justice A M Khanwilkar and is hearing a clutch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of Loya — that the register usually contains the names of all those who stay there whoever it may be.
Jaising raised doubts about the statement made by one of the judges who said that three judges shared a room the night before Loya died. Justice Chandrachud pointed out that it was not a room but a suite. Jaising said some people had been to the room and found it was one with two beds.
But Justice Chandrachud said he and Justice Khanwilkar, while criss-crossing Maharashtra, had stayed in circuit houses and had seen that they have rooms with beds and a small sitting area with sofas. “All circuit houses in Maharashtra, wherever there is a suite, there is a small sitting area and a room… the sitting area has sofas.”
Senior advocate V Giri, appearing for Tehseen Poonawala who is one of the petitioners, sought to highlight what he said were contradictions in the medical and other reports associated with Loya’s death. Giri said “there is no document to establish the presence of judge Loya in Ravi Bhavan or at the wedding… There is no medical record available of Dande hospital… There is no copy of ECG of Dande placed on record”.
Questioning the “discreet inquiry” conducted by Maharashtra police following a report in the Caravan magazine that raised doubts about the circumstances of Loya’s death, Giri said it was apparent that the “inquiry” was “conducted” in a “perfunctory” manner.
“Sixteen independent persons are reflected from the records. Their statements were not recorded. Officer says he has verified. He hasn’t,” Giri said, adding that the inquiry officer had not bothered to meet anyone but had apparently done it sitting in office. “If a discreet inquiry was required to be done, it should have been done in a more complete manner so as to satisfy their own conscience,” he said.
He pointed out that Loya’s body was handed over to Dr Prashant Rathi by Sitabardi police while records show the investigation had been handed over to Sadar police station and there should be some explanation forthcoming.
But senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Maharashtra government, countered this saying Giri was mistaking a “nakal” (copy) statement already recorded by Sitabardi police and reproduced by Sadar police to conclude that the investigation was handed over to the latter.
Giri also raised doubts on what he said was “re-registration of accidental death summary by the Sadar police in February 2016 when it should have been done in 2014”. Salve replied that this was a final report to the executive magistrate.
Giri contended that there was no histopathological report, but Salve submitted that it was there in the documents submitted by the state to the court. “Forensics took its own time,” he said. To this, Giri replied that the discreet inquiry was silent on the report.
The hearing also saw a heated exchange between Justice Chandrachud and Dave.
It started with Jaising and Dave criticising the stand of senior advocate Pallav Shishodia who was appearing for petitioner B R Lone. Shishodia said the court hearing the matter itself amounted to an independent probe and that he was not taking any side and urged the court to take a suitable decision.
Jaising said if Lone did not want an investigation, he need not have filed the petition. Dave repeated what he had said before, that the petition was filed in the Supreme Court to pre-empt the petition filed before the Bombay High Court so that the apex court would hear it.
Shishodia objected, saying “I find it scandalous that somebody objects to the apex court hearing a matter.”
As the argument went on, Justice Chandrachud intervened and told Dave “you have to listen to the judges when they are addressing court”.
Dave was defiant: “No, I won’t.” He said he was apprehensive that justice would not be served in the case and wanted the court to ask senior counsel representing Maharashtra to withdraw on grounds of conflict of interest since they had also represented BJP president Amit Shah in the past.
At this, Justice Chandrachud said in that case, the court won’t listen to him too. “Let us not reduce this court to a level which even a fish market is not,” he said, adding “address the court in your turn… allow dialogue to proceed in this court”.
He also told Shishodia that “courtesy begets courtesy”. Following this, the counsel apologised. Dave, however, continued and said the Bar Council of India was sending him a notice over alleged professional misconduct while those on the other side were free to do whatever they wished.