Judge Loya death: Rahul Gandhi's petition to President undermines Supreme Court, is baffling on many counts
It is clear that Congress president Rahul Gandhi wants to keep the political pot boiling over the judge Loya case, even after his son's statement to the media.
Rahul Gandhi does not want to wait for the Supreme Court verdict on the case pertaining to judge BH Loya's death. He thinks that the judge died under “suspicious” circumstances, and he has thus petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind to intervene and order a probe by a special investigative team (SIT).
The Congress desires that the investigative team must not comprise of officers from the CBI or NIA, the two agencies under the command of the Centre. The party which ruled the nation for 60 years believes that these agencies are compromised and would act per the instructions of the government of the day.
That gives rise to the question — if the CBI and NIA are not to be a part of the SIT (if at all it is to be constituted in future), then who would lead it or be a part of it? The Congress obviously will not trust the Maharashtra or Gujarat police, or the police force of any of the 19 states in which the BJP is part of the government.
The Congress party’s argument for petitioning the President for an independent probe, without waiting for the outcome of the pending case in the Supreme Court, was rather interesting – that the Supreme Court is only hearing PILs pertaining to the case. This line of argument is highly debatable, as there have been numerous instances where criminal cases have been registered on the orders of lower courts as also the higher judiciary.
The manner in which the Congress president has structured his demand before the President of India clearly indicates that his party and its allies (who are opposed to the BJP) want to keep the political pot boiling, even as judge Loya's son Anuj was quoted by PTI as saying that his “father died of natural causes, our family is convinced it was a natural death… I have made myself clear that we do not have a suspicion.”
Rahul said that there was a sense of discomfort among parliamentarians because a judge (he first said "judge of the High Court, and then, on prompting by Kapil Sibal, corrected himself by saying CBI judge) died under suspicious circumstances. “We only want the investigation to be done by an independent body, as we have suspicions.”
The Supreme Court is presently seized of the matter and the case is being heard by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Three years after judge Loya's death, the case evokes a great deal of curiosity in political circles and sections of the media. This is because when he passed away, he was handling the Sohrabuddin Shaikh case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was one of the accused. Any suggestion of foul play in Loya's death thus has serious implications, both political and legal. The Congress would like to see that irrespective of the deliberations of the apex court, judge Loya's death continues to be debated and discussed in public.
On the last day of the first half of the Budget session, the Congress secured the signatures of 114 members of 15 parties to seek an appointment from the President to submit a petition to him.
When Rahul came out after petitioning the President and stood in the foreground of the Rashtrapati Bhavan to brief the media, three things were particularly noticeable. The implications of these go beyond the Loya case.
Firstly, the newly elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh stood next to Rahul, indicating a possible alignment of his party with the Congress. The Congress had so far kept AAP away from any outreach for opposition unity in Parliament and outside it. This is despite suggestions in the past by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to the Congress to include the AAP in deliberations on opposition unity.
The AAP had originated out of the Anna Hazare-led movement against the corruption of the UPA regime. However, lately, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has given several signals of softening his stance against the Congress, including asking his party supporters in Gujarat to vote for the party which could defeat the BJP (read the Congress).
Sanjay Singh’s maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha, in which he blasted the BJP, was supported by senior Congress members. One is not sure how Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, who is fighting the AAP in the capital, would take it. Early signals of Congress-AAP friendship come at a time when there is a strong possibility of bypolls being held in 20 Delhi Assembly seats. There will be a great deal of interest among the citizens of Delhi and outside on the issue of how the relationship between the Congress and AAP takes shape.
Secondly, Kapil Sibal assumed the task of speaking about the petition and the merits of the Congress' arguments, without being asked to do so by his leader Rahul Gandhi. At times, he spoke over Rahul, responding to most questions that were posed by the media for the Congress president. At one point, Sibal said “I don’t want to interfere, but Amit Shah happened to be an accused in the case…” Being an accomplished lawyer, Sibal would know the nuances of the Loya case better. However, interrupting the party president is not something that is seen to happen often, least of all in the Congress party.
Thirdly, Rahul himself digressed from the Loya case and began talking about the Rafale deal. He began by saying “I don’t want to shift attention from the Loya issue.” However, he went on to talk about why he thought the inter-government Rafale deal between India and France was a shoddy one.
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