“Unless This Institution Is Preserved … Democracy Will Not Survive”: On the Day of the Loya Hearing, Four Senior Judges of the Supreme Court Speak Out

12 January 2018
This morning, four of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court met with the chief justice, Dipak Misra. During a press conference, the justice Ranjan Gogoi confirmed that the issues raised at the meeting concerned the hearing of petitions regarding the death of the judge BH Loya.
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

This morning, before they sat down in their respective courtrooms, four of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court of India met the chief justice, Dipak Misra. “For some time, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. There are many things which are less than desirable which have happened in the last few months,” Jasti Chelameswar, the senior-most among the four, later said during a press conference. He sat beside the other three judges—Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur. “We thought we owed a responsibility to the nation. We tried to collectively persuade the chief justice that certain things are not in order and therefore you should take remedial measures,” Chelameswar continued. “Unfortunately, our efforts failed.”

“All four of us are convinced,” he added, “that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Speaking for the four judges, Chelameshwar made clear that while their differences with the chief justice go back a few months, they had gone to meet him this morning “with a specific request.” When asked if the request pertained to petitions seeking an independent investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the judge BH Loya in 2014—which were listed to be heard before lunch today—Gogoi, who is expected to be appointed the CJI later this year, answered: “Yes.”

At the time of his death, Loya was presiding over the Sohrabuddin encounter case, in which the BJP president Amit Shah was a prime accused. In November 2017, The Caravan reported the shocking claims raised by the family of Judge Loya.

The two petitions, filed by Tehseen Poonawalla, a political commentator, and Banduraj Sambhaji Lone, a journalist based in Maharashtra, respectively, soughtan investigation into Loya’s death. They were listed to be heard in court number 10, before a bench comprising the judges Arun Mishra and Mohan Shantanagouder. In seniority, the two judges are ranked 10 and 22 respectively among the 25 judges of the Supreme Court. The bench clubbed the petitions and heard them at 11.30 am. The bench asked the counsel for the state of Maharashtra to procure Loya’s post-mortem report, and listed the matter for hearing on 15 January. (Recently, two separate petitions seeking an inquiry into Loya's death were filed before the Bombay High Court as well.)

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan. 

Keywords: Supreme Court judiciary judges Dipak Misra BH Loya