Loya death hearing: Dushyant Dave accuses Harish Salve of conflict of interest
The hearing of petitions concerning the mysterious death of CBI judge BH Loya, witnessed heated arguments between senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Harish Salve.
A Chief Justice Dipak Misra headed bench on Monday began hearing the two petitions seeking independent probe into the death of Loya who was then hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which BJP chief Amit Shah was the prime accused.
Within a month of Loya’s death, Shah in December 2014 was discharged by the CBI Court on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Curiously, the CBI which had indicted Shah of being a “part of the larger conspiracy to kill Sohrabuddin, subsequently his wife Kauser Bi and and finally Tulsiram Prajapati, did not challenge Shah’s discharge.
Filed by Maharashtra-based journalist Banduraj Sambhaji Lone and Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla, the petitions follow reports by The Caravan about Loya’s family members suspecting foul play and making shocking revelations including a bribe offer of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment made by a top judge.
Two similar petitions including one filed by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association, are pending before the Bombay High Court.
Representing the petitioners, Dave opposed Salve’s appearance in favour Maharashtra, citing conflict of interest.
“He (Salve) has appeared for Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin case and now is appearing for Maharashtra. This is a serious conflict of interest,” contended Dave.
Dave’s contentions ensued into a heated exchange of words between the two senior counsels prompting the bench to intervene.
“Please do not cast aspersions or comment on such things. We all are the holders of our own conscience. It is for the advocates to decide whether or not they should appear in any matter,” said the bench.
Salve had appeared for Amit Shah in 2016, opposing a petition challenging his discharge in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. He had also defended the Gujarat government in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
Conflict of interest allegations have also been made against advocate Pallav Shishodia who is representing one of the petitioners in the Loya case. He had earlier appeared for Shah in 2011 against the CBI challenging his bail in the Sohrabuddin case.
Apprising the court about the petitions before the Bombay High Court, Dave said document supplied in respect of the matter by the Maharashtra government were incomplete and sought access to postmortem and other medical report.
He also claimed to have information obtained through RTI that contradict the Maharashtra government’s assertions of Loya having died due to cardiac arrest. He also pointed to the demands made by Loya’s father and sister for an independent probe into the judge’s sudden and mysterious death.
Dave also submitted that some documents have not been brought on record. They may have a bearing on the case, and are hence required to be filed.
Strongly contesting Dave’s arguments, Salve appearing for the Maharashtra government, said a careful and prudent investigation was conducted following the media reports in which four judicial officers rejected any foul play.
“It contains statements from judicial officers who were accompanying Judge Loya as to the entire sequence of events leading to his death. All these are sitting judicial officers who have given these statements under their signature,” said Salve adding that the Bombay High Court recorded the statements that said Justice Loya died of cardiac arrest.
The bench observed “We must look into all documents with utmost seriousness" and ordered all records pertaining to the case be before it.
It also directed transferring the petitions case pending in the Bombay High Court to itself and restrained other High Courts from dealing with the matter.
Following the court’s order to produce all documents, Salve pleaded that the documents be shared only amongst lawyers involved in the case prompting severe objection from advocates Dave and Indira Jaising.
Jaising, representing one of the petitioners, said accepting Salve’s plea would tantamount to gagging the media.
“The entire system is trying to protect one man. Amit Shah and Amit Shah alone is the beneficiary. The nation has the right to know. There should be no gag”.
Displeased by the remarks, CJI Misra demanded Jaising to withdraw her submission and apologise. The senior advocate promptly withdrew her submission and apologised.
The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 2.