SC collegium endorses judges Joshi and Modak, whose version of events court had relied on to dismiss plea for a fresh probe into Loya’s death.
New Delhi: Two Maharashtra judges who were among the four present with Judge B.H. Loya when he died in December 2014, are set to be elevated to the Bombay High Court.
The names of judges S.M. Modak and V.G. Joshi have been endorsed by the Supreme Court collegium — along with four other lower court judges in the state — for appointment as high court judges.
The two men were present with Judge Loya when he passed away in Nagpur. At the time of his death, Loya was the special CBI judge presiding over the trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was the prime accused.
It was Modak, at present a judge in Pune, who had told police investigators that he had travelled with Loya from Mumbai to Nagpur to “attend a colleague’s daughter’s wedding and was present when he suffered a stroke”.
An RTI reply, however, contradicted Modak’s claims. It revealed that the Department of Law and Judiciary had communicated to officials at Ravi Bhawan, the state guest house in Nagpur, that Loya and Joshi “would be coming from Mumbai for government work”.
Joshi is currently a judge in Thane district.
In fact, the Supreme Court had in April refused to order a fresh probe into the circumstances of Loya’s death, relying fully on Modak’s version of events.
“We find no reason to doubt the veracity of statements made by judicial officers,” the court had said, referring to the judges accompanying Loya at the time of his death.
In recommending the six names, the Bombay High Court has superseded some senior judicial officers. N.J. Jamadar, who is currently the principal secretary with the state government’s Law and Judiciary Department, has also been recommended to be appointed as a judge of the high court.
The six names had been recommended by the Bombay High Court collegium on 28 November, 2017, just a week before then chief justice Manjula Chellur retired. In April , the government appointed Chellur as the chairperson of the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity, a post she will hold for three years.
The Supreme Court collegium has said it is aware of the judges being superseded.
“We have also taken note of the fact that the above proposal involves non-recommendation of some senior judicial officers,” the SC collegium said.
It, however, said it was “in agreement with the justification” given by the high court in a note, without disclosing the reasons why the senior judicial officers were overlooked.
Apart from the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur are part of the three-member collegium that recommends judges to the high courts.
Both Gogoi and Lokur had questioned the way the apex court was handling the Loya case in a 12 January press conference.