Adding to the controversy of “who killed Justice Loya?”, his son wrote a letter to the Bombay high court chief Justice Manjula Chellur yesterday, November 28, saying that the family has no complaints or suspicions about the circumstances of his father’s death, according to The Times of India.
Earlier, Justice Bhushan Gavai told the media outlet that there was no foul play in Justice Brijmohan Loya’s death in the early hours of 1 December 2014. He said that Loya complained of chest pain and was taken to the hospital. Some senior judges “rushed to the facility as well”, Gavai said, adding, “There was no sign of any cover-up or mystery about how the judge died.”
Loya’s son Anuj said in a letter handed over to the Chief Justice, “We have full faith in the members of the judiciary who were with him on the night of November 30.”
He added that the family had no doubts about the integrity of the investigating agencies and that they were certain Loya died of a heart attack.
Loya was the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge presiding over the trail of BJP top chief Amit Shah and several top officers in the Gujarat police for the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi in 2005. Shah was arrested by the CBI in July 2010 in connection with the alleged staged shooting.
Loya had taken over the trial after Justice JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, was transferred from the CBI special court in mid-2014, in violation of the Supreme Court order which said that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish.
Loya died on 1 December 2014 of an alleged cardiac arrest. Later the same year, Amit Shah was discharged by the Mumbai special CBI court.
Three years after the sudden demise due to cardiac arrest of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, his family raised questions about the “suspicious circumstances” in which he died in Nagpur.
An investigative report by Niranjan Takle in The Caravan pointed at blatant inconsistencies in Loya’s death after his niece, Nupur Balaprasad Biyani, approached Takle in 2016. Following this, he spoke to several other family members of Loya and the government servants in Nagpur who witnessed procedures followed with the judge’s dead body, including the post-mortem.
Loya was in Nagpur for the wedding of a fellow judge’s daughter and was put up at Ravi Bhavan, a government guest house for VIPs, when he met with the ‘cardiac arrest’ on the night of 30 November 2014.
The family was told that Loya was taken to Dande Hospital, a private hospital in Nagpur, by an auto rickshaw which Anuradha Biyani, his sister, questioned as there is no auto rickshaw stand near Ravi Bhavan; the nearest being two kilometres away. She also said that the ECG” — the electrocardiography unit at the facility — “was not working”.
Biyani told Takle that the body was delivered to the family at around 11:30 pm the next day in an ambulance with none of Loya’s colleagues, who had gone to the wedding with him, accompanying the driver. It was shocking that a CBI judge’s body was delivered without any safety.
Both Biyani and another one of Loya’s sisters said that his dead body had blood stains. However, the post-mortem report said that the condition of Loya’s clothes at the time of death was “dry”.
The family also pointed that the time of death mentioned in the police report, 1/12/14 at 0615 hours (6:15 am), was incongruous as according to the family members, they had started receiving calls about the death from 5 am onwards.
Every page of the post-mortem report was signed by the senior police inspector of Sadar police station, Nagpur, and by someone who signed with the phrase “maiyatacha chulatbhau” — or the paternal cousin brother of the deceased. This latter person is supposed to have received the body after the post-mortem examination. “I do not have any brother or paternal cousin brother in Nagpur,” Loya’s father said. “Who signed the report is another unanswered question.”
Furthermore, after Loya’s death, doctors said that he did not suffer from any cardiac history and his sister added that no one from the family suffered from the condition as well.
Apart from raising questions the death, Anuradha Biyani claimed that Justice Mohit Shah, the then Chief Justice of Bombay high court had offered Loya a bribe of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgement.
The Indian Express investigation
Nearly a week after The Caravan’s report, The Indian Express did its own investigation and found details contradictory to The Caravan’s reportage.
That “the ECG was not working”, that someone unknown to the family picked up the body, that the judge was virtually abandoned after his death and that his body was sent to his village home unescorted — are not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records, said The Indian Express report.
The media outlet reported that two judges of the Bombay HC, Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Sunil Shukre, who were with Loya in the wedding went to the hospital when he allegedly complained of chest pain and also made arrangements for transporting the body.
“Loya was staying with fellow judges Shridhar Kulkarni and Shriram Madhusudan Modak. He experienced a health problem around 4 am. (Local judge) Vijaykumar Barde and then Deputy Registrar of the Nagpur bench of the High Court Rupesh Rathi first took him to Dande Hospital (3 km from the guest house) in two cars,” said Justice Gavai.
“There was no question of taking him in an autorickshaw (as mentioned in the Caravan report),” said Justice Shukre. “Judge Barde drove him to Dande Hospital in his own car.”
Loya’s sister had said that the ECG at Dande Hospital was not working, however, The Indian Express obtained a copy of an ECG dated November 30.
When asked why the ECG was dated November 30 when Loya was brought to the hospital on December 1, the hospital reasoned “technical glitch” due to machine calibration issue.
Both the lawyers who spoke to The Indian Express said that they tried everything in their capacity to save Loya and that there was nothing “suspicious” about his death. Gavai also added that Chief Justice Mohit Shah, who was accused by Loya’s sister of offering him a bribe of Rs 100 crore to give a favourable judgement, also came to the Meditrina hospital, where Loya was later admitted.
The Caravan report claims that “the paternal cousin brother of the deceased” collected the body and quotes Loya’s father as saying, “I do not have any brother or paternal cousin brother in Nagpur…Who signed the report (post-mortem) is another unanswered question.”
The Indian Express claims to have tracked down the man who signed the report – Prashant Rathi, a doctor himself.
Rathi told the media outlet that his, Rukmesh Pannalal Jakotia, called him to help Loya. “He said his cousin (judge Loya) had been admitted to Meditrina hospital and asked me to help him. When I reached the hospital, doctors told me he was no more. I conveyed this to my uncle. He asked me to take care of the formalities,” said Rathi.
About finding blood stains on Loya’s body, as reported by The Caravan, a senior government forensic expert said: “Blood is bound to spill out during post-mortem as we open all major cavities in the body. Sometimes, if small gaps remain in the sutures, blood might seep out.”
Contradictory to The Caravan’s report which claimed that Loya was accompanied by no one apart from the driver of the ambulance when brought home, Justice Gavai said that two judges were sent along with the body.