Admiral Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff: “Why I am filing a Writ Petition and PIL on the Judge Loya case”

Admiral Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff: “Why I am filing a Writ Petition and PIL on the Judge Loya case”

The Supreme Court has been hearing a batch of petitions seeking investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Judge Loya who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which Amit Shah was one of the prime accused.

Judge Loya had gone from Bombay to Nagpur to attend the wedding ceremony of the daughter of a fellow judge on 30.11.2014. However, tragically his family was intimated about his sudden death on 01.12.2014 during the early hours of the morning. Judge Loya's body was delivered to his native village Gategaon on the same day late at night. Judge Loya's family was informed that he had suffered a heart attack, however the family made an appeal for an investigation into the death of Judge Loya as it was suspected as being unnatural.  

Two articles publishes in the News magazine The Caravan on 20.11.2017 and 21.11.2017 threw light on these suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Judge Loya by interviewing his family members. Based on the extensive media coverage, petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Judge Loya. The Hon'ble Chief Justice of India in the order dated 22.01.2018 directed that all petitions or interventions filed in relation to the Judge Loya case would be heard by a bench consisting of the Hon'ble CJI himself. 

The ECG which was alleged to have been to done has not provided to the Court, leading to the suspicion that there was no ECG done. Additionally, the family was not informed that a post-mortem was being done depriving them of the opportunity to remain present. Another curious issue that has been raised is the absence of an entry of Judge Loya having stayed at the Government  guest house Ravi Bhawan.

Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas has filed an intervention application in the matter after being given liberty by the order of the court to file the IA.  Admiral Ramdas is being represented by senior advocate Ms. Indira Jaising and raises several inconsistencies in the version put forth by documents on record and media coverage of the matter. The application also raises several pertinent grounds for the investigation of the death of Judge Loya. The main reliefs sought in the application include the formation of a multi-member committee of retired judges and retire police officers with appropriate powers under the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Judge Loya. The application further prays that persons wishing to provide evidence regarding the death of Judge Loya be given the opportunity to do so. Finally the application prays for an investigation into the arbitrary transfer of CBI Judge Utpat who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case before Judge loya.

Admiral Ramadass held the position of Chief of the Naval Staff in the Indian Navy from 30 November 1990 to 30 September 1993. During his time in the Indian Navy he acquired multiple awards such as Vir Chakra, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal. He has been an outspoken activist in civil society advocating transparency in the armed forces and peace between India and Pakistan.  He was also recognised by the Maharashtra Government by the award of the Gaurav Puruskar in 1990. After his retirement from the Navy, he was recognised for his work in religious and communal harmony by the Staines Religious Harmony Award in 2003. In 2004, he was also recognised for his work for Peace in the neighbourhood, by the Award of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace.

Given below is the personal testimony of Admiral Ramdas on the reasons why he has filed an intervention application in the Judge Loya's case:

To Whom It May Concern

 So why am I filing a Writ Petition and PIL on the Judge Loya case? How and why am I concerned?

  1. I have always been and remain a great believer in and follower of the Constitution of India which guarantees independence of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
  2. The Constitution guarantees every citizen various freedoms, including the freedom of speech, freedom to practice the religion of their choice, and Right to life.
  3. Several events in the years since Independence have been indelibly imprinted on my mind from the time that I witnessed at close quarters, the horrors of Partition as a young lad growing up in Delhi in the 1940s. To mention a few - the ruthless slaying and pogrom let lose against the Sikhs in 1984; the inexplicable destruction of places of worship including the Babri Masjid in 1992 , and the deliberate killing of large numbers of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. I continue to watch with mounting dismay, the current and continuous violations of basic human rights, attacks on minorities – especially Muslims and Dalits, and the systematic weakening and debilitation of all our established institutions, including the judiciary. As we celebrate the 68th anniversary of our Republic– each of these events listed above, represents a serious violation of the Constitution, for which I hold the Governments of the day accountable. It is certainly a time to take serious stock of where we have reached and how do we make the necessary course corrections before it is too late.
  4. I retired as Chief of the Naval Staff in 1993 after 45 years in the service of the Nation. I moved soon thereafter to live in a small village, Bhaimala, in rural Maharashtra. I have constantly and continuously maintained a critical position about these continuing attempts to undermine and weaken the Constitution and the Democratic framework of the country, and how these affect the most marginalised. I have never hesitated in expressing my views and my unhappiness at these developments in unequivocal terms. These have often taken the form of letters addressed to the topmost leadership in the country. 
  5. These include one written in October 2015 to the then President and the Prime Minister – expressing my shock at the series of events taking place around the country; then one in 2017 to Shri Ram Nath Kovind jee, the Honorable President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, soon after his election , concerning the growing intolerance and deteriorating civil military relations among other matters.
  6. The latest letter was written by me to the CJI and the CJ – Bombay High Court, written in November 2017, raising my concerns about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Judge Loya , as outlined in the Caravan Magazine in Nov 2017. This was mainly to urge the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court to constitute a high level Judicial Enquiry /SIT into the matter and to thus restore public confidence in the image of the judiciary and the highest court in the land – ie the Supreme Court.
  7. I have been motivated primarily by an abiding consciousness of my duties as a citizen of India and a proud member of our Armed Forces. I have always sought to communicate my views and disquiet on matters of state, directly to the leadership of our nation from time to time, or whenever, in my perception, we seem to be losing our way and moving away from the broad pathway or Dharma as laid down in the Constitution – which has always been my guiding light.
  8. So it is in this present case. I have already written expressing my strong discomfort at the series of disclosures and conflicting versions regarding Judge Loya’s sudden and untimely death. The recent Press conference by four of the senior most Judges of the SC only confirmed my own fears that all was not well – and therefore this writ, as a Public interest Litigation, seeking the Courts Directive to set up a high level judicial Enquiry under the direct monitoring of the SC. I am hoping that by so doing, I would add further weightage to the pleas already made , to inquire into this matter without further delay and further damage to our institutions.
  9. I am sharing my reasons for taking this action of seeking direction from the Highest Court in the land, primarily to allay possible allegations of vested interests that might have motivated me. I am 84 years old – and have been keeping indifferent health. I could just as well have kept silent and enjoyed my retirement. However, do I feel deeply that each of us has a duty and a responsibility to work towards realising the dream of building an open, tolerant, inclusive and diverse India – as envisioned in that great document -the Indian Constitution.
  10.  My experience as a Lok Pal. It was this belief that led me to accept the responsibility of the role of Lok Pal of the Aam Aadmi Party from its inception till I was no longer required ! In keeping with my principled notion that such a role required complete and uncompromising objectivity and non partisan functioning, I never became a member of AAP or any other political party.
  11.  I have never held a post retirement paid post – either in Government nor in any private for profit entity. I live primarily on my pension and interest on my few savings – and this has enabled me to play the role of an independent voice and critic without any fear or favour. Born in Mumbai; domiciled in Maharashtra; I am perhaps one of the few retired Former Chiefs who continues to live on the land allotted to me for my gallantry award of Vir Chakra after the 1971 operations.
  12.  My wife and I have cultivated what was banjar land, and we continue to learn about organic farming and the struggles of our rural and farming community – the greatest education we could have had. For nearly twenty five years, we have worked with local communities and children in a number of educational activities ; have led struggles against take over of irrigated farmlands. We have both been deeply involved with work for Peace – in our region, especially with Pakistan, and for a Nuclear free India, a Nuclear free Asia and Nuclear Free World.

 

Laxminarayan [Ramu] Ramdas

 

Disclaimer:"The views in the article are of the author and do not represent the views of the Invisible Lawyer"

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