Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: The Division Bench of Akil Kureshi, CJ and S.G. Chattopadyay, J., decided in a petition which was filed by the wife of deceased since the police failed to make arrests of the accused persons or to include the provisions of Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereinafter to be referred to as “SC ST Act”), her husband had died due to injuries caused by a violent mob with deadly weapons in an incident which took place on 22nd October 2020 and belonged to a Scheduled Tribe(ST).

Petitioner, her husband and his brother were allotted lands under Forest Rights Act, 2006 under two separate allotment orders both dated 3rd May 2009. The non-tribal residents of the area wanted to grab these lands. Complaints of illegal land grabbing of the tribals by non-tribals were also made to the Minister of Tribal Welfare and Forest in November 2018 who had asked the SDM to look into the matter and do the needful. This couldn’t lead to a resolution thus finally petition was filed.

The prayers were as follows:

(i) For transferring the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

(ii) To invoke the penal provisions of SC ST Act against the perpetrators.

(iii) To declare Burshingpara village under Kanchanpur Police Station as an identified area in terms of Section 2(c) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 (hereinafter to be referred to as “the said Rules of 1995”).

(iv) To deploy sufficient force in the area to protect the resident members of Scheduled Tribe.

(v) To provide compensation of Rs.8,25,000/- to the petitioner and the dependents of the deceased in terms of the Rules of 1995 and to provide other support such as family pension and Government job to one member.

(vi) To order inquiry against Officer-in-Charge of Kanchanpur Police Station and Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Kanchanpur for willful neglect of duties which led to murder of the husband of the petitioner. The contention of the petitioner and her counsel is that the investigation carried out by the police authorities so far is just eyewash.

The Court found out that this case was not a fit case where the investigation should be handed over to the CBI. Undoubtedly, the High Court as a Constitutional Court and a Writ Court has the power to transfer such investigation to the CBI even without the consent of the State Government as is laid down by series of judgments of Supreme Court further holding that this case did not presents such rare or exceptional circumstances where the

CBI should be involved. However, looking to the slow progress in the investigation and the past incidents noted in the earlier portion of this judgment, the investigation must be taken away from the purview of the local police authorities and be handed over to a Special Investigation Team(SIT) that shall be constituted by this Court.

The Court further directed the following:

  • Offences punishable under Section 3(2)(v) and (v-a) of SC ST Act shall be added to the investigation.
  • Further investigation shall be carried out by a Special Investigation Team(SIT) which would be headed by the Superintendent of the District, assisted by the Dy.S.P who shall work under the guidance and supervision of the S.P.
  • Request for transferring the investigation to CBI is refused.
  • The State-administration shall proceed to determine the compensation payable to the family of the victim at appropriate stage in terms of the provisions contained in the SC ST Act and the Rules made thereunder in view of the addition of the offences punishable under the SC ST Act. In the meantime, an ad-hoc amount of Rs.5,00,000/- shall be paid over to the petitioner, widow of the deceased Pindulal Chakma which payment shall be adjusted towards the compensation that may be found payable under the provisions of the SC ST Act and the Rules made thereunder or under the scheme framed by the State Government for financial assistance from the Chief Minister Discretionary Fund, as the case may be. This amount shall be paid within 1(one) month from today.
  • The Home Department shall take a final decision without any further delay and in any case, within 1(one) month from today with respect to the proposal for declaring the village in question as a disturbed area in terms of Section 2(c) of the SC ST Act.
  • Further prayers of the petitioner for grant of family pension Government job to the member of the family of the deceasedmust rest on the outcome of the investigation particularly with respect to commission of offence under SC ST Act and the Government schemes in this regard which are not brought on record by either side. We, therefore, refrain from giving any such directions and leave it open to the petitioner to agitate these prayers in future if the circumstances so justify.
  • The original papers pertaining to the case which are placed before us may be returned to the respondents.

[Buddhapati Chakma v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 539, decided on 11-10-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: The Full Bench of Rajesh Bindal, ACJ and I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Subrata Talukdar, JJ., in furtherance to the order passed on 19-08-2021 which had directed the constitution of SIT to monitor the investigation of specific categories of cases monitored by a retired Hon’ble Supreme Court Judge, appointed a retired Chief Justice of a High Court stating non-availability of a retired

Supreme Court Judge to take up the assignment.

The Full Bench stated that justice Manjula Chellur, retired Chief Justice of this Court was requested to take up the assignment which was graciously accepted and accordingly she has been appointed to monitor the SIT.

The Court as an interim measure State Government has been asked to pay a sum of 10 lakhs to her for the assignment and it was made clear that she will be entitled to travel from her place of stay to any place in connection to the work assigned and stay, which is befitting to a Chief Justice. All arrangements for her travel and stay would be looked upon by the Chief Secretary of the State of West Bengal.[Anindya Sundar Das v. Union of India, WPA (P) 143 of 2021, order dated: 03-09-2021]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Bench of Arun Monga, J., expressed disbelief on how an all men SIT could be deployed to investigate into sensitive offences like rape contrary to legal provisions. The Bench constituted another SIT to be headed by a female officer. The expressed,

The allegations and factual averments contained in the petition are so grisly and frightful, one can only hope, that the same are fictitious.”

On the argument of the defendant that a honey trap was laid by the petitioner, which later boomeranged on her, the Bench said, if that be not so, then it was a case which reflected the sordid state of affairs in Punjab Police. The Bench remarked,

The very protectors/enforcers of law and order have turned into predators, making a young 38 years old widow mother victim of their lust.

To maintain and respect the privacy of the petitioner the Court refrained to give the narrative of the incident. The facts of the petitioner was that when she declined to succumb to the sexual favor sought from her by the police officials her 19-20 year old son was picked up by CIA police officials in broad day light while he was suffering/convalescing from Covid-19 infection at his residence. The petitioner contended that an FIR, allegedly a fake one, was registered against her son under NDPS Act by planting contraband on him so as to arm twist the petitioner. Eventually, under duress to get her son released, she yielded to the sexual demands of the CIA staff. To substantiate her allegations, petitioner had also appended a pen drive which contains the recorded conversations between her and respondent 5 as well as certain live video clippings in support of her rape allegations, a heinous crime otherwise, but was being termed as honey trap by the defense.

Opining that truth will only unfold in time once it is properly investigated; the Bench replaced an all men SIT with another SIT with female members and head. The Bench said,

It is rather intriguing, given the nature of sensitive investigation, that no lady police official has been involved, which is even otherwise the requirement of law in cases of this kind. To say the least, it is highly deplorable to see the insensitiveness with which the district police officials have acted, in constituting the SIT having all male members.

Hence, constituting an all women SIT the Bench directed that the investigation shall also be carried out by the lady IO/police officer in both the cases registered under Section 376 IPC and registered under Section 18(b) of the NDPS Act, 1985. Additionally, the Bench asked the State what steps had been taken under the “Witness Protection Scheme, 2018” as per judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in Mahender Chawla v. Union of India, (2019) 14 SCC 615, as the petitioner was fearful that the police officials who were involved in the case, may try to bodily harm her and tamper with the evidence and/or destroy the same. Lastly, the Bench sought reply from the State as to the steps taken so far to proceed against the accused, in criminal proceedings arising out of both the FIRs, as well as departmental action taken, if any.

[Veerpal Kaur v. State of Punjab, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 1033, decided on 25-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Adv. Gurpreet Singh Bhasin
For the State of Punjab: DAG Sandeep Singh Deol

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajbir Serawat, J., addressed the controversial case of     regarding three incidents of alleged sacrilege qua Guru Granth Sahib-the Holy Book of Sikhs. The Court was dealing with the incident of Kotkapura firing, wherein the petitioner had sought for quashing of the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry asserting that they have been named in the report without having been granting any opportunity of hearing. The Bench, which while going hard on the manner of investigation, stated,

“What could have been a simple investigation of a crime committed either by the protestors or by the police or by both, have been made to fester and convert itself to a quagmire wherein every concerned person finds himself entrapped.”

Kotkapura Firing

The case relates back to the protest held against the incident of alleged sacrilege; wherein some Saroops (Books) of Guru Granth Sahib went missing from a Gurudwara and two hand written posters containing some sacrilegious contents qua Guru Granth Sahib were found pasted near a Gurudwara. During the process of maintaining the law and order some police persons were seriously injured and one protestor was alleged to have received grievous gunshot injury on thigh and some other persons are alleged to have received minor injuries.

Total 47 police persons got injured at the hands of protestors. The public sentiments got aroused and the issue was further aggravated by the religious leaders. Meanwhile, keeping in view the public outcry for justice and to ensure a fair investigation, the then State Government had referred the all the FIRs related to sacrilege to CBI.

Later on asserting that the earlier report of Justice (Retired) Zora Singh Commission was inconclusive, the incoming State Government set-up another Commission of Inquiry into the incidents of sacrilege, as well as, into the police firing at Kotkapura, by appointing Justice (Retired) Ranjit Singh to head the Commission, which recommended registration of criminal cases against the police persons and some political functionaries.

Withdrawal of Investigation from CBI

Since there was resentment in political circles against handing over the investigation to the CBI, the State Government had put up the matter before the State Legislative Assembly, which passed a resolution calling upon the government to take back the investigation from the CBI. Consequently, the matter was withdrawn from the CBI and the same was handed over to the Punjab Police. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted for this comprising of 5 officers including Senior IPS Officers. However, allegedly, Sh. Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh  (respondent 3) tried to exclusively take over the investigation by excluding the other members of the SIT. Hence, allegedly, they wrote letter to DGP raising their protest expressing their dissent qua the investigation being conducted by the respondent 3.

It had been alleged by the petitioner, that the respondent 3 had tried to bulldoze the SIT and be a de-facto boss, despite two IPS officers senior to him being there in the SIT. Allegedly, since the respondent 3 was acting as per the preplanned agenda to further the political plans of the current political dispensation, therefore; subsequently, he was made de-jure head of the SIT by the DGP, Punjab. Reportedly, the respondent 3 did not carry investigation qua FIR No. 192 dated 14-10-2015 which contained the first version of the incident recorded by the police. On the contrary; he exclusively conducted the investigation in FIR No. 129 dated 07-08-2018, which dealt with protestor’s version of the incident.

A Dangerous Mixing of Religion, Politics and Police Administration

Evidently, the respondent 3 had a tendency of misusing his official position and authority in performance of his duties, i.e. to bulldoze and deviate the process, as well as, to make an attempt to over awe the judicial process. Reportedly, when he could not get remand of the petitioner for desired period he went to the extent of alleging that the reason that the CJM granted only two days remand was CJM’s close family linkage with Prakash Singh Badal, the outgoing CM of Punjab while no details of such family linkage was given on record. This mischief was done by the respondent 3 only to pressurize the Courts at Faridkot and to overawe the judicial process. The Bench expressed,

“The respondent 3 is a person who indulges in misuse of his official position to further his designs; makes attempt to over-awe the processes and the authority and who indulges in theatrics and political maneuvering to draw mileage out of it.”

In April 2019 when the Parliamentary Elections were taking place, the respondent 3 gave interview to a TV Channel and named certain political leaders of the party rival to the political dispensation heading the current government; knowing that such an interview at such a juncture would enhance the political prospects for one political party and would damage the political prospects of another political party. For which the Election Commission had debarred him from election duty during that election. Political patronage of the respondent 3 is evident from the fact that the government did not remove him from the investigation despite the orders of the Election Commission (ECI). The political backing of the respondent 3 further becomes clear as the top functionaries of the political party heading the present government, as well as, the CM itself wrote to the ECI for revoking the order passed against the respondent 3.

Investigation Tainted by Political Maneuvering

While recording the selective statements of alleged witnesses, the respondent 3 was conducting only manipulative exercise in the name of investigation; to declare some persons as innocent and to make some persons accused at his whims.

The apprehension of the petitioner(s) that the respondent 3 could not be expected to act fairly and impartially in the conduct of investigation; was found to be reasonable one even as per the standards of an ordinary person of ordinary prudence. Through the misadventures of respondent 3, the SIT already constituted was reduced to one man show, although the respondent 3 was a de-facto sole controller of the investigation even earlier. In any case, no law required the respondent 3 to go to media and to give such interview which had political overtones; qua the investigation and during the election time. The Bench expressed,

All these incidents lend credence to the submission of the petitioner that the respondent 3 was pressurizing him to withdraw the writ petition and to become a witness to implicate the other senior officers of the Police Department and some top political functionaries of the rival political party.”

Was the Firing a Result of Conspiracy Backed by the then CM, Prakash Singh Badal?

During investigation, the respondent 3 had not examined any one of the injured police persons so as to assess the respective assertions of the parties in the FIRs. He had examined only the alleged injured protestors and filed a report; wherein he had declared the firing by the police to be totally ‘unprovoked’ and the protestors to be totally ‘peaceful’.

An allegation was raised by the respondent 3 claiming a conspiracy between the then CM, the then Deputy CM, the then senior police officers and the petitioners on the basis of the call record showing the CM talking to the DGP and the District Administration, as well as, to his political representative in the area. The Court stated that, mere factum of a Chief Minister talking to the District Administration or to the DGP of the State in the times of a situation where the law and order is disturbed, in itself, would not be sufficient to infer his conspiracy to kill or injure anybody through firing by the police upon the protestors, unless there is some other material collected by the investigating officer to establish prior meeting of minds for conspiracy and then directly linking the Chief Minister to such conspiracy.

The Court opined that it rather suggest that the CM was alive to the situation and to his responsibility even in the odd hours. Also, none of the other witnesses was stated to have even remotely suggested that the then CM conspired to kill the protestors by police firing. The Bench further stated that, mustering of police force from various sources of state to control the law and order situation is nothing uncommon. Rather, sensing ill intentions on the part of respondent 3, the Bench said that despite mentioning their names in the charge sheet and recording therein that their conspiracy was established, the respondent 3 did not array the then CM as accused by filing any charge sheet against them which suggest he was waiting for a political horse to be flogged only at an opportune time, whenever the elections are around the corner or when it otherwise suits him.

The integrity of the investigation totally stands demolished because of this manipulation on the part of the respondent 3, as he repeatedly pressed that the police resorted to ‘unprovoked firing’ on ‘peaceful protestors’; despite the fact that the magistrate present on the spot had assessed the situation that had arisen on the spot and had granted permission to use tear gas in the first instance, lathi charge thereafter, and the gun firing at the third stage. As per record, this permission was granted on the basis that the protestors were resorting to large scale violence and destruction of property; and that because of this the situation had gone out of control. Description of Second Inquiry Commission also recorded the protestors to have chased and attacked the police, including with the swords.

Directions by the Court

In view of the above, the fairness of investigation stands vitiated since the investigation conducted by the respondent 3 suffers from malice, irrationality and absurdity. The Bench expressed that in such case the Court is duty bound to step-in to prevent miscarriage of justice, instill confidence in the investigation and also to pre-empt the misuse of the process of the court; by quashing the investigation and the consequent report under section 173 CrPC.

Hence, it was held that the investigation deserves to be conducted by an independent team of senior police officers; by being totally free from all kinds of internal or external extraneous pressures and interference. The matter was disposed of with the following directions:

  • State shall constitute a SIT of three senior IPS officers which shall not include the respondent 3. There shall be no interference from any quarter; internal or external; with this SIT qua the investigation.
  • The SIT shall not report to any State executive or police authority qua the investigation in question but to the Magistrate concerned.
  • The SIT so constituted shall work jointly. All the members of the SIT shall put their signatures on all the proceedings of the investigation as a mark of the fact that they have agreed to the said investigation;
  • Once constituted, that SIT shall not be changed by State except in case of retirement, incapacity or death of the officer concerned;
  • The members of SIT shall not leak any part of the investigation, before filing the final report and shall not interact with media qua any aspect of investigation.

[Gurdeep Singh v. State of Punjab, CWP No. 17459 of 2019, decided on 09-04-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsel for the Petitioner: R. S. Cheema, Senior Advocate, with K. S. Nalwa, A. S. Cheema and Chakitan V. S. Papta

Counsel for the State: Pankaj Singhal
Counsel for CBI: Sumeet Goel

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain the plea seeking SIT probe in the custodial deaths of two men in Bihar’s Sitamarhi.

The order reads,

“We are not inclined to entertain these petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The writ petitions are, accordingly, dismissed. The petitioners may move the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, if so advised. We make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case.”

The petition was moved before the Supreme Court by NGO “Citizens Against Hate” through advocate Fauzia Shakil demanding an SIT probe monitored by a former Director General of Police of another State and a magisterial inquiry into the death of two Muslim men – Taslim Ansari and Ghufran Ansari. Both of them were taken into custody on March 5 for allegedly killing a man while stealing his motorbike.

When their families reached the police station the next day, they were told that the men were already dead. However, the families discovered wounds on the bodies of both the men and filed an FIR for their custodial deaths. Consequently, 5 policemen were suspended but no one has been arrested yet.

The Court, however, held that it was not inclined to entertain the petition and that the petitioners had the right to move the High Court.

[Citizens Against Hate v. State of Bihar, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.130/2019, decided on 02.07.2019]

(With inputs from The Leaflet)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Punjab government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the death of a government official whose body was found on railway track near Jalandhar Cantt station in November 2017.

The bench said that it was not inclined to entertain the plea and granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court with their grievances. It said,

“We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, on the ground stated before the Court by the petitioner-in-person that as a law student the petitioner has no time to move the High Court.”

The plea, filed by three law students Deepali Vashishth, Prateek Raj and Anurag Mani, said that Rahul Bhatia was posted in the Regional Passport office at Jalandhar and on November 15, 2017, his body was found near the railway station. They said that Bhatia’s parents, who are residing in Delhi, were informed by the police about it but no proper investigation was carried out in the case. They have said in the plea that several complaints and representations were made to the top authorities but no action was taken in the matter by the police.

The plea also sought a direction to the authorities to ensure that in every case of death, where proceedings under section 174 of the CrPC is initiated, a charge sheet is submitted to the judicial magistrate after conducting probe. Section 174 of CrPC deals with inquiry by police in cases of suicide or unnatural deaths.

 

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: This writ petition was filed before the Bench of Rajan Gupta, J., where he addressed five writ petition together which challenged the recommendations given by Zora Singh Commission Report and Ranjit Singh Commission Report where they had to inquire into the incidents of sacrilege and alleged role played by various person, the role of police officials who were alleged of improper and delayed investigation. Thereby, the petitioner prayed for quashing of the above two report’s recommendation.

There were three incident of alleged sacrilege relating to one sarup (set) of Guru Granth Sahib. Various protests were done which turned into major agitation leading to firing by police, as a consequence of which two people had died and few injured. On all three occasions, FIRs were filed. In aftermath of these incidents, the State Government formed Zora Singh Commission deriving its powers from the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. Later when elections took place new Government was formed which formed Rajan Singh Commission for an inquiry into the same matter as was inquired by Zora Singh Commission.

Petitioner contended that Section 7 of the Act was not complied according to which, a new commission for an inquiry could not have been created without de-notifying the Commission formed by the previous Government. Advocate General for State referred a case of Abhinandan Jha v. Dinesh Mishra, 1967 (3) SCR 668 and mentioned that the Court could not have interfered with the investigation being carried out or direct it to act in a particular manner.

High Court was of the view that SIT should not be swayed by the observations made by the Commissions. Observations of Commissions are meant only to instruct the mind of Government in order to prevent such incidents in the future. The SIT should conduct a fair, impartial and speedy investigation. It is to be remembered that Commission report are not adjudicatory in nature and have no binding force, is a settled law in light of the above-referred case of Abhinandan Jha. Therefore, this writ petition was dismissed with the aforementioned directions.[Charanjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 66, decided on 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Gita Mittal, Acting CJ, speaking for the Court comprising of herself and C. Hari Shankar, J. rejected the petition seeking SIT probe in the tragic Iraq hostage crisis, holding the petition filed by the petitioner, a practicing advocate of the Court, to be a publicity stunt.

Through the writ petition that was submitted to be filed in public interest, the petitioner sought constitution of Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate into all the aspects of the ghastly hostage crisis in Iraq whereunder 39 Indian nationals were killed by ISIS (terrorist organization). The petition was premised on the alleged failure of the respondents to protect the lives of 39 Indian captives who were held hostage by ISIS in Iraq. The petitioner demanded a fair and impartial judicial probe to establish whether the failure to protect those lives was on account of mere negligence of duty or a deliberate and willful act.

Considering gravity of the issue, the High Court, in its extensively detailed judgment, perused each and every aspect concerned. Matters ranging from as wide as the factual basis to government efforts; from the right of the public to be informed to principles of natural justice, were covered by the High Court while deciding the case at hand. The Court observed that the instant case raised a critical issue regarding the appropriateness of Court intervention in matters of foreign diplomacy. The Court further observed the prayer made in the petition for public disclosure of more information would require divulgence of identity of Indian and foreign undercover assets, endangering their lives and seriously compromising national security. So far as the constitution of SIT was concerned, the Court observed that the incident happened in Iraq, and issuing letters to Iraqi officials under provisions of CrPC would be of no consequence at all. The Court held the prayer for the constitution of SIT as misconceived. While commending the Government’s efforts in bringing back the remains of 39 Indians killed by ISIS, the Court showed its displeasure at what it termed as petitioner’s malafide attempt to seek publicity in respect of the tragic incident. Holding it to be based on no credible material, the petition was outrightly rejected with costs quantified at Rs. 1,00,000. [Mehmood Pracha v. Intelligence Bureau, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9499, dated 06-06-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar, and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ dismissed the petitions seeking the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge B.H. Loya’s death case. While doing so, the Court said:

“there is absolutely no merit in the writ petitions. There is no reason for the court to doubt the clear and consistent statements of the four judicial officers. The documentary material on the record indicates that the death of Judge Loya was due to natural causes. There is no ground for the court to hold that there was a reasonable suspicion about the cause or circumstances of death which would merit a further inquiry.”

The sequence of events leading to the present case are:

  • Judge Loya was presiding over the CBI Special Court in Mumbai in the trial arising out of the encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which Amit Shah, the national President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was one of the accused.
  • On 29 November 2014 Judge Loya travelled to Nagpur with two other judicial officers, Shrikant and SM Modak to attend the wedding in the family of another judicial officer, Swapna Joshi who was then a Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.
  • In the early hours of 1 December 2014, Judge Loya complained of chest pain and was taken to a nearby hospital. He was then referred to Meditrina Hospital, a cardiac care facility, where he was declared “brought dead”.
  • On 11 December 2017, Tehseen Poonawalla filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution before the Supreme Court seeking SIT probe into Judge Loya’s death.
  • Jayshri Laxmanrao Patil and another by Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone also filed petitions on the same issue.
  • On 20 and 21 November 2017, articles on his death were published in the issues of Caravan magazine. The first article was titled “A family breaks its silence : shocking details emerge in death of judge presiding over Sohrabuddin trial”.

Cause of Death:

The summary of the post mortem report records that Judge Loya died due to a heart attack. No complaint has been lodged by his relatives at the local police station or at PS Sadar of any suspicion in regard to the cause of death and the medical officer has recorded the cause of death as a heart attack in the PM report and there was no evidence of assault.

Statements of the 4 judges:

Petitioner’s submission: the procedure of obtaining the permission of the Chief Justice was completed within one day and the statements were submitted by the four judges on the next day. Two of the judges (Judge Shrikant Kulkarni and Judge Barde) were based in Mumbai while the other two (Judge Modak and Judge Rathi) were based at Pune and Baramati.

Court:

  • A discreet inquiry had been ordered by the state government in view of the articles which were published in Caravan regarding the death of a judicial officer. Three of the statements specifically refer to the letter to the Commissioner while the fourth refers to the request which has been made by the Commissioner and the permission which has been granted by the High Court. There was no reason for the four judicial officers to procrastinate or delay the submission of their statements. There is no basis whatsoever to make any imputation against the four officers of the state judiciary.
  • Each of the judges has spoken in detail of the facts and events which were within their personal knowledge. The statements contain matters of detail which would be known to those who were present with Judge Loya. They have a ring of truth.

Petitioner’s Submission: if the four judges had accompanied Judge Loya to hospital, then as colleagues they would not have indicated his name to be Brijmohan instead of Brijgopal.

Court: This is but another attempt to cast doubt on the version of the four judicial officers without a substantive basis or foundation. Judge Loya was taken to hospital in an emergency. The normal course of human events would indicate that his four colleagues would be more concerned about getting Judge Loya attended than filling up an admission form. A mistake did occur in recording his name as Brijmohan instead of Brijgopal. In our view, this cannot be a ground to discredit the detailed factual narration made by the four judicial officers who were with him.

Stating that the conduct of the petitioners and the intervenors is lacking in bona fides and reveals a misuse of judicial process, the Court said:

“An aura of good faith has been sought to be created by submitting that the true purpose of seeking an inquiry into the circumstances relating to the death of Judge Loya is to protect the district judiciary. But as the submissions have evolved, it has become clear that the petition is a veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and to dilute the credibility of judicial institutions. Judicial review is a potent weapon to preserve the rule of law. However, here we have been confronted with a spate of scurrilous allegations. Absent any tittle of proof that they are conspirators in a murder the court must stand by the statements of the judicial officers. The judges of the district judiciary are vulnerable to wanton attacks on their independence. This court would be failing in its duty if it were not to stand by them.”

[Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India, (2018) 6 SCC 72, decided on 19-04-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, CJ, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, JJ named Justice J M Panchal and Justice K S P Radhakrishnan, as members of the supervisory body to examine the decision of the SIT to close 199 cases relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and to express the view whether there was justification to close the cases.

The supervisory body will start functioning from 05.09.2017 and will submit it’s report within 3 months. The Court also asked the Union of India to provide requisite assistance to the body.

The SIT that had, in it’s report suggested the closing of 199 1984 riots related case, was headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch, and had Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge and Kumar Gyanesh, an additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, as its members.

The anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

Source: PTI