The Supreme Court has set the controversy regarding the death of judge Loya at rest by ruling that he died a natural death and there were no grounds to suspect foul play. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also found the petitions demanding a probe into the judge’s death as attempts to scandalise the judiciary. In fact, the court came down heavily on the petitioners for making a “veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of judiciary”. Their action was tantamount to contempt of court, but the bench said it was giving them a reprieve by not proceeding against them.
The reference to the ‘veiled attempt’ set off an instant slugfest, with BJP attributing it to Congress, which under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi had taken a delegation to President Ramnath Kovind to demand an independent probe into the judge’s death. Congress described the day of Supreme Court verdict as a ‘sad letter day’ in the history of the nation and reiterated its demand for a fair probe into the ‘mysterious circumstances’, about which it said those who believe in the judiciary still have questions to be answered.
The verdict also had a clear message for the mutineering judges, under the leadership of Justice Chelameswar, who held an unprecedented ‘call of conscience’ press conference alleging questionable procedures being followed by Chief Justice Misra in sensitive cases. The judges had talked about instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned selectively to benches without any rational basis and warned that the tendency must be guarded against at all costs. Although a specific mention was meticulously avoided, Justice Loya’s case was central to the presser, which raised serious doubts in the public mind about the independence of judiciary in India. By striking down the very basis of the foursome’s grievance, the 3-member bench has poured cold water on the simmering discontent, which at one stage threatened to vertically split the judiciary. Congress and the Left parties have even initiated a move to impeach the Chief Justice following the controversial press conference.
The court also issued a stern warning against political parties and others using the court to fight out their own battles. The judges said that business rivalries must be resolved in the market and political rivalries settled in the ‘hall of democracy’ and that it is the court’s duty to protect the law. The abuse of PIL for frivolous reasons has been a recurring theme in judicial debates. Senior lawyers such as Shanti Bhushan, Indira Jaising, and Dushyant Dave are bound to feel hurt by the general observation, but examples of misuse of the great mechanism of PIL are a dime a dozen.