BH Marlapalle, a retired judge of the Bombay High Court, has written to Manjula Chellur, the chief justice of the high court, urging an “investigation by an SIT” into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the judge BH Loya. Marlapalle’s letter is dated 21 November—the day after The Caravan published a series of investigative reports on significant discrepancies between the reported account of Loya’s death, and the accounts of his family.
Marlapalle states in his letter that he “firmly” believed that this is a case fit for a probe by a special investigation team “irrespective of its outcome at this point of time.” He notes that the Supreme Court, while interpreting Article 235 of the constitution, has “repeatedly stated that the High Court is the guardian of the subordinate judiciary.” He goes on to state that “ordering an investigation by an SIT by registering this article”—referring to The Caravan’s reports—“as a PIL petition, will certainly make the subordinate court judges to believe that they are not orphans.”
At the time of his death, on the intervening night of 30 November and 1 December 2014, Loya was presiding over a Central Bureau of Investigation court that was hearing the case on the allegedly fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin. The accused persons in the case included Amit Shah, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and several senior police officers from Gujarat.
Marlapalle is not the only retired high court judge to have demanded a probe into the disturbing allegations arising out of his death—on 23 November, AP Shah, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, in an interview to The Wire, also said that the matter should be investigated. Shah said, “I feel it is very necessary that the chief justice of the high court or the chief justice of India himself should look into this material and decide whether to order an enquiry.” “Not enquiring into the allegations made by the family would send a very wrong signal to the judiciary, particularly the lower cadre,” he added. “As it is, in recent times there are several self-inflicted wounds on the judiciary and I feel that such matters should be investigated.”
Marlapalle told The Caravan that he had received the “speed-post delivery report” of his letter, which confirmed that the chief justice Chellur had received his letter “on 23rd at 5 o’clock.” He added that he also “sent copies of the letter to the other senior-most five judges” of the Bombay High Court—VK Tahilramani, NH Patil, SS Kemkar, AS Oka, and Anoop V Mohta. He explained that he sent the letter to the other judges “hoping that the administrative judges will collectively think on what needs to be done.” Marlapalle’s letter concludes on a note requesting the chief justice’s “kind and urgent attention to do the needful.” Over the phone, Marlapalle emphasised that he added the word “urgent” because the chief justice Chellur would soon be retiring. On the eve of her sixty-second birthday, Chellur will retire from service on 4 December.