New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected five petitions requesting a probe into the death of Justice BH Loya in 2014. The apex court said it “can’t doubt the statements of the judicial officers who were with Loya” in his last hours.
Much before the verdict, the petitioners had pleaded before the court that Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud recuse themselves from the case as they are from Mumbai. The plea was dismissed with the remark that petitioners Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising had forgotten to maintain institutional civility towards SC judges and made wild allegations.
The bench refused to believe that the account of four judicial officers Judge Shrikant Kulkarni (Member Secretary, Maharashtra State Legal Service Authority), Judge Shriram Modak (Principal District Judge, Pune), Judge Vijay Kumar Barde (District Judge, City Civil Court, Mumbai) and Judge RR Rathi (District Judge, Baramati) was false.
In what appeared a loaded remark, the judges noted today, “Business rivalries to be resolved in (the) market and political rivalries in the hall of democracy. It is the court’s duty to protect (the) law.”
The death of Judge Loya in 2014 had turned political last year. However, while the judge’s sister Anuradha Biyani had questioned the circumstances of his death, his son Anuj Loya found nothing suspicious in the death. “There was some suspicion before due to emotional turmoil, but now it is clear,” Anuj Loya told reporters.
Another relative alleged that judge Loya had been offered some bribe and was under immense mental pressure. The Maharashtra police rubbished the family’s claims.
In the meantime, the police attributed the death to Judge Loya’s coronary artery deficiency. A section of the deceased judge’s extended family claimed, however, that the judge didn’t drink, led an active life, played tennis every day for 2 h, and that he or his family had no history of heart ailments.
The Maharashtra government told the apex court that the petitions were motivated. It said the judge’s death was being politicised since he was connected with a criminal case in which a person heading a political party had been discharged.
[pullquote]In what appeared a loaded remark, the judges noted today, “Business rivalries to be resolved in (the) market and political rivalries in the hall of democracy. It is the court’s duty to protect (the) law.”[/pullquote]
The opposition had but politicised Judge Loya’s death, claiming it to be a murder which ‘threatened democracy’. INC president Rahul Gandhi had met President Ram Nath Kovind with a group of legislators, asking for an independent probe into Judge Loya’s death.
The INC had also found it ‘mysterious’ that two men Judge Loya trusted — lawyer Shrikant Khandalkar and district judge Prakash Thombre — had died mysteriously. In 2015, lawyer Shrikant Khandalkar fell to his death from the sixth floor of a district court building. The next year, Prakash Thombre fell from the top berth inside a train coach and his spine broke.
The death of Judge Loya led to an unprecedented rift within the Supreme Court earlier this year, with four senior judges going public with the allegation that Chief Justice Misra was assigning cases with “far-reaching consequences” to junior judges.
Supreme Court website hacked following Loya verdict?
The Supreme Court’s website crashed on 19 April some time after the judgment above was delivered. According to some reports, Brazilian hackers may have targeted it, which would normally imply that the attempt might have nothing to do with the verdict. However, the page carrying the verdict read “hackeado por HighTech Brazil HacTeam“, a phrase in Portuguese meaning “hacked by HighTech Brazil HacTeam”.
“Site under maintenance,” read the message on the homepage of supremecourtofindia[dot]nic[dot]in. The screenshot showed an image of cannabis leaves with a message saying
“This site can’t be reached,” said another message on the page of the website maintained by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) that creates e-governance applications.
Earlier, the site flashed an error message “Err_Socket_Not_Connected” which means that the site was facing a Domain Name System error.
However, images of the website circulated on social media, apparently captured soon after the apex court rejected pleas for an independent probe into the death of Judge BH Loya, showed that it may have been attacked by a Brazilian hack team.
NIC officials refused to speak on the issue.