Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain the plea seeking SIT probe in the custodial deaths of two men in Bihar’s Sitamarhi.

The order reads,

“We are not inclined to entertain these petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The writ petitions are, accordingly, dismissed. The petitioners may move the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, if so advised. We make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case.”

The petition was moved before the Supreme Court by NGO “Citizens Against Hate” through advocate Fauzia Shakil demanding an SIT probe monitored by a former Director General of Police of another State and a magisterial inquiry into the death of two Muslim men – Taslim Ansari and Ghufran Ansari. Both of them were taken into custody on March 5 for allegedly killing a man while stealing his motorbike.

When their families reached the police station the next day, they were told that the men were already dead. However, the families discovered wounds on the bodies of both the men and filed an FIR for their custodial deaths. Consequently, 5 policemen were suspended but no one has been arrested yet.

The Court, however, held that it was not inclined to entertain the petition and that the petitioners had the right to move the High Court.

[Citizens Against Hate v. State of Bihar, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.130/2019, decided on 02.07.2019]

(With inputs from The Leaflet)

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Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Punjab government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the death of a government official whose body was found on railway track near Jalandhar Cantt station in November 2017.

The bench said that it was not inclined to entertain the plea and granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court with their grievances. It said,

“We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, on the ground stated before the Court by the petitioner-in-person that as a law student the petitioner has no time to move the High Court.”

The plea, filed by three law students Deepali Vashishth, Prateek Raj and Anurag Mani, said that Rahul Bhatia was posted in the Regional Passport office at Jalandhar and on November 15, 2017, his body was found near the railway station. They said that Bhatia’s parents, who are residing in Delhi, were informed by the police about it but no proper investigation was carried out in the case. They have said in the plea that several complaints and representations were made to the top authorities but no action was taken in the matter by the police.

The plea also sought a direction to the authorities to ensure that in every case of death, where proceedings under section 174 of the CrPC is initiated, a charge sheet is submitted to the judicial magistrate after conducting probe. Section 174 of CrPC deals with inquiry by police in cases of suicide or unnatural deaths.

 

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: This writ petition was filed before the Bench of Rajan Gupta, J., where he addressed five writ petition together which challenged the recommendations given by Zora Singh Commission Report and Ranjit Singh Commission Report where they had to inquire into the incidents of sacrilege and alleged role played by various person, the role of police officials who were alleged of improper and delayed investigation. Thereby, the petitioner prayed for quashing of the above two report’s recommendation.

There were three incident of alleged sacrilege relating to one sarup (set) of Guru Granth Sahib. Various protests were done which turned into major agitation leading to firing by police, as a consequence of which two people had died and few injured. On all three occasions, FIRs were filed. In aftermath of these incidents, the State Government formed Zora Singh Commission deriving its powers from the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. Later when elections took place new Government was formed which formed Rajan Singh Commission for an inquiry into the same matter as was inquired by Zora Singh Commission.

Petitioner contended that Section 7 of the Act was not complied according to which, a new commission for an inquiry could not have been created without de-notifying the Commission formed by the previous Government. Advocate General for State referred a case of Abhinandan Jha v. Dinesh Mishra, 1967 (3) SCR 668 and mentioned that the Court could not have interfered with the investigation being carried out or direct it to act in a particular manner.

High Court was of the view that SIT should not be swayed by the observations made by the Commissions. Observations of Commissions are meant only to instruct the mind of Government in order to prevent such incidents in the future. The SIT should conduct a fair, impartial and speedy investigation. It is to be remembered that Commission report are not adjudicatory in nature and have no binding force, is a settled law in light of the above-referred case of Abhinandan Jha. Therefore, this writ petition was dismissed with the aforementioned directions.[Charanjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 66, decided on 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Gita Mittal, Acting CJ, speaking for the Court comprising of herself and C. Hari Shankar, J. rejected the petition seeking SIT probe in the tragic Iraq hostage crisis, holding the petition filed by the petitioner, a practicing advocate of the Court, to be a publicity stunt.

Through the writ petition that was submitted to be filed in public interest, the petitioner sought constitution of Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate into all the aspects of the ghastly hostage crisis in Iraq whereunder 39 Indian nationals were killed by ISIS (terrorist organization). The petition was premised on the alleged failure of the respondents to protect the lives of 39 Indian captives who were held hostage by ISIS in Iraq. The petitioner demanded a fair and impartial judicial probe to establish whether the failure to protect those lives was on account of mere negligence of duty or a deliberate and willful act.

Considering gravity of the issue, the High Court, in its extensively detailed judgment, perused each and every aspect concerned. Matters ranging from as wide as the factual basis to government efforts; from the right of the public to be informed to principles of natural justice, were covered by the High Court while deciding the case at hand. The Court observed that the instant case raised a critical issue regarding the appropriateness of Court intervention in matters of foreign diplomacy. The Court further observed the prayer made in the petition for public disclosure of more information would require divulgence of identity of Indian and foreign undercover assets, endangering their lives and seriously compromising national security. So far as the constitution of SIT was concerned, the Court observed that the incident happened in Iraq, and issuing letters to Iraqi officials under provisions of CrPC would be of no consequence at all. The Court held the prayer for the constitution of SIT as misconceived. While commending the Government’s efforts in bringing back the remains of 39 Indians killed by ISIS, the Court showed its displeasure at what it termed as petitioner’s malafide attempt to seek publicity in respect of the tragic incident. Holding it to be based on no credible material, the petition was outrightly rejected with costs quantified at Rs. 1,00,000. [Mehmood Pracha v. Intelligence Bureau, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9499, dated 06-06-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar, and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ dismissed the petitions seeking the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge B.H. Loya’s death case. While doing so, the Court said:

“there is absolutely no merit in the writ petitions. There is no reason for the court to doubt the clear and consistent statements of the four judicial officers. The documentary material on the record indicates that the death of Judge Loya was due to natural causes. There is no ground for the court to hold that there was a reasonable suspicion about the cause or circumstances of death which would merit a further inquiry.”

The sequence of events leading to the present case are:

  • Judge Loya was presiding over the CBI Special Court in Mumbai in the trial arising out of the encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which Amit Shah, the national President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was one of the accused.
  • On 29 November 2014 Judge Loya travelled to Nagpur with two other judicial officers, Shrikant and SM Modak to attend the wedding in the family of another judicial officer, Swapna Joshi who was then a Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.
  • In the early hours of 1 December 2014, Judge Loya complained of chest pain and was taken to a nearby hospital. He was then referred to Meditrina Hospital, a cardiac care facility, where he was declared “brought dead”.
  • On 11 December 2017, Tehseen Poonawalla filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution before the Supreme Court seeking SIT probe into Judge Loya’s death.
  • Jayshri Laxmanrao Patil and another by Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone also filed petitions on the same issue.
  • On 20 and 21 November 2017, articles on his death were published in the issues of Caravan magazine. The first article was titled “A family breaks its silence : shocking details emerge in death of judge presiding over Sohrabuddin trial”.

Cause of Death:

The summary of the post mortem report records that Judge Loya died due to a heart attack. No complaint has been lodged by his relatives at the local police station or at PS Sadar of any suspicion in regard to the cause of death and the medical officer has recorded the cause of death as a heart attack in the PM report and there was no evidence of assault.

Statements of the 4 judges:

Petitioner’s submission: the procedure of obtaining the permission of the Chief Justice was completed within one day and the statements were submitted by the four judges on the next day. Two of the judges (Judge Shrikant Kulkarni and Judge Barde) were based in Mumbai while the other two (Judge Modak and Judge Rathi) were based at Pune and Baramati.

Court:

  • A discreet inquiry had been ordered by the state government in view of the articles which were published in Caravan regarding the death of a judicial officer. Three of the statements specifically refer to the letter to the Commissioner while the fourth refers to the request which has been made by the Commissioner and the permission which has been granted by the High Court. There was no reason for the four judicial officers to procrastinate or delay the submission of their statements. There is no basis whatsoever to make any imputation against the four officers of the state judiciary.
  • Each of the judges has spoken in detail of the facts and events which were within their personal knowledge. The statements contain matters of detail which would be known to those who were present with Judge Loya. They have a ring of truth.

Petitioner’s Submission: if the four judges had accompanied Judge Loya to hospital, then as colleagues they would not have indicated his name to be Brijmohan instead of Brijgopal.

Court: This is but another attempt to cast doubt on the version of the four judicial officers without a substantive basis or foundation. Judge Loya was taken to hospital in an emergency. The normal course of human events would indicate that his four colleagues would be more concerned about getting Judge Loya attended than filling up an admission form. A mistake did occur in recording his name as Brijmohan instead of Brijgopal. In our view, this cannot be a ground to discredit the detailed factual narration made by the four judicial officers who were with him.

Stating that the conduct of the petitioners and the intervenors is lacking in bona fides and reveals a misuse of judicial process, the Court said:

“An aura of good faith has been sought to be created by submitting that the true purpose of seeking an inquiry into the circumstances relating to the death of Judge Loya is to protect the district judiciary. But as the submissions have evolved, it has become clear that the petition is a veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and to dilute the credibility of judicial institutions. Judicial review is a potent weapon to preserve the rule of law. However, here we have been confronted with a spate of scurrilous allegations. Absent any tittle of proof that they are conspirators in a murder the court must stand by the statements of the judicial officers. The judges of the district judiciary are vulnerable to wanton attacks on their independence. This court would be failing in its duty if it were not to stand by them.”

[Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India, (2018) 6 SCC 72, decided on 19-04-2018]

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Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, CJ, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, JJ named Justice J M Panchal and Justice K S P Radhakrishnan, as members of the supervisory body to examine the decision of the SIT to close 199 cases relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and to express the view whether there was justification to close the cases.

The supervisory body will start functioning from 05.09.2017 and will submit it’s report within 3 months. The Court also asked the Union of India to provide requisite assistance to the body.

The SIT that had, in it’s report suggested the closing of 199 1984 riots related case, was headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch, and had Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge and Kumar Gyanesh, an additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, as its members.

The anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

Source: PTI