The Supreme Court has dismissed all PILs in the Judge Loya case, asserting that there was no foul play, that Judge Loya took the natural way out. It was expected. No other ruling could have come. The four Supreme Court judges who rose in rebellion with a presser must be disappointed. So must be lawyers Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaising and Dushyant Dave. For them, there is no life after PIL. The 3-judge bench “scuttled” what it called an attempt to “scandalize” and “politicize” the apex court.
And with that the Caravan fell into the gorge and The Wire Snapped. ‘Black Day’, said Bhushan. ‘Yellow Rag’ pronounced advocate Mukul Rohtagi, standing counsel to the state of Maharashtra in the case. “Black’ and ‘Yellow’ are two colours that don’t appear on rainbows anywhere. And only Judge Loya would know the exact details of his death. But he is dead. So that avenue is closed. Following the verdict, Judge Loya must be either turning in his grave or smiling from heaven.
Opposition parties are the other parties which are disappointed with the ruling. The Congress foremost. The top court made a veiled reference to a ‘veiled hand’ directing the petitioners. The ruling BJP says don’t look any further than at the election symbol of the Congress to attach the ‘veiled hand’ to. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam says it is blatant judicial bias. He seems unafraid of contempt of court. He has been there before.
Talking of the hand, lawyers Bhushan, Indira Jaising and Dushyant Dave will sleep easy now. Their strong-arm ‘bullying the judges in court’ days are over. At least for now. The story goes that Prashant’s father Shanti Bhushan gave a load of cash to Prashant to play PIL with, and the son has been at his ‘hobby’ like an avid stamp-collector in Puddukotai!
A couple of TV news channels which invented the word ‘lobby’ for the “PIL-wallas” are hanging on to every word that is out in the apex court’s verandah. “There is no merit in the writ petitions, Judge Loya’s death was natural,” the top court ruled Thursday, April 19, 2018, adding that the petitions were “frivolous” and “motivated”, two words that are anathema to lawyers. Most important, the top court said, the petitioners were out to “malign the judiciary”.
“There is no reason to disbelieve the sequence of events leading to the death as narrated by the four judicial officers namely Shrikant Kulkarni, Shriram Modak, R. Rathi and Vijay Kumar Barde and the assertions of Bombay High Court Justices Bhushan Gawai and Sunil Shukre,” the 3-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice A M Khanwilkar bench said.
Judge Loya’s death polarized political opinions. It also brought out divisions in the apex court. Judge Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. And BJP president Amit Shah was one of the main accused. That was in December 2014. November 2017, Caravan magazine broke that some Loya family members were “suspicious”. Official records put cardiac arrest as cause of death. But the Caravan alluded to tampered death. That was more than enough for the opposition to burn the wire for whole nights. More so, because within a month after Judge Loya’s death, Shah was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Some months ago, Judge Loya’s son Anuj Loya, who had written a letter to the chief justice of the Bombay high court for an investigation, said he was “satisfied” with whatever was in the public domain; and, please, end the torture to the family. The so-called ‘lobby’ promptly swung into action and asked: Who is the kid to ask for closure, he’s still wet behind the ears.
Then, the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court held their presser and alleged that sensitive cases were going to “preferred benches” and top among the ‘sensitive cases’ was the Judge Loya case. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who will take over as CJI after CJI Dipak Misra retires, alluded that the presser was prompted by the Loya case.
New energy infused, the ‘lobby’ went all out in attack-mode. The demand for an “independent probe” grew in crescendo. In the months since the presser. the issue was, indeed, “politicized” and aspersions were cast on the CJI’s motives. A move to impeach him was set in motion. Bhushan and Dave and Jaising talked tough in court and tougher outside court. At times it was a toss as to who ran the SC – top lawyers or the top court?
So, where does this go from here? The Supreme Court in its ruling has given hint that the petitions amounted to “criminal contempt”. That should cool the likes of Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising. AIMIM boss Barrister Asauddin Owaisi says there is a “finality” and “infallibility” to Supreme Court rulings, and that life should go on.
But Owaisi knows that some of the camels making up the Caravan will climb out of the gorge. And The Wire will be soldered to soldier on. Those who expected any other ruling in the Judge Loya case were living in La La Land. And those who expect the media to lie low hereafter are dreaming. That is not how life goes on.
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