Read to Know: All about Judge Loya’s Mysterious Death Probe Case

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, dismisses petition seeking probe into death of CBI Special Judge B H Loya, ruling that Judge Loya died due to “natural causes”, observed that the petitioners tried to “scandalise” the judiciary.

The Case:

Justice loya (Brijgopal Harkishan Loya) served in a court in the CBI, Died of cardiac attack on 1 December 2014 in Nagpur. He was working on the famous Soharabuddin case.

On 23 November 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were travelling by bus from Hyderabad to Sangli in Mahrashtra. While on the way, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) stopped the bus and abducted the couple. Three days later, on 26 November, Sohrabuddin was shot dead in what the police called an encounter, but it was later found to be fake by the investigators

Judge Loya had allegedly died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. The 48-year-old judge was handling a murder case in which BJP chief Amit Shah was among the accused, when he died of a heart attack in 2014.

Justice loya went to Nagpur to attend the marriage of one of his friend Sapna Joshi’s daughter along with four other colleagues Shrikant Kulkarni, SM Modak, VC Barde and Roopesh Rathi.

Initially Justice loya was not interested at all to go, but two of his colleagues who went with him forced him to come and he agreed later. Justice Loya called to his wife on Nov 30, 2017 for the last time. On Dec 1st morning his sister received a call informing her that justice loya died due to heart attack and his body has to be taken to Latur for the post mortem.

According to the colleagues who were with him “We were staying in Ravi Bhavan Nagpur and Justice Loya started feeling severe chest pain due to which we have taken him to Dande hospital in Nagpur in Auto and then doctor’s from dande hospital referred him to Meditrina hospital Nagpur.

When they reached the Meditrina hospital doctors declared justice loya as “brought dead”.

After his death, The judge who replaced him in Soharabuddin case the ruled there was not enough evidence against Mr Shah to merit a trial.

It all started with the from the caravan magazine’s report published on Nov 20, 2017. The report raised the questions about circumstances of the justice loya’s death.

Five petitions calling for an inquiry were filed after questions were raised about the death.

There has been a revelation in the case of the death of special CBI Judge BH Loya. After examination of the documents related to Loya’s death, it show signs of possible trauma to the brain, and even possible poisoning, claims a report by Caravan. In the report, leading forensic expert Dr RK Sharma, after examining medical documents pertaining to the death of the judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, has dismissed the official claim that Loya died of a heart attack.

Sheet of post-mortem report (left) and sheet of viscera report (right) showing contradictory opinions on probable cause of death.
Sheets of post-mortem report showing congestion of multiple organs, including the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, oesophagus and lungs, among others.
Report of chemical analysis on tissue samples (left) showing date of start and end of analysis. Sheet of post-mortem report (centre) and sheet of viscera report (right) showing observations on rigor mortis.
Source: The Caravan

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had on March 16 reserved the judgment on the pleas.

The Maharashtra government told the top court that the petitions that sought an independent probe are motivated. The judge’s death, it said, was being politicized since he was connected with a criminal case in which a person heading a political party was discharged.

The assignment of the case was one of the issues that triggered the unprecedented rift within the Supreme Court earlier this year. The case was reassigned after four of the most senior judges publicly alleged that cases with “far-reaching consequences” were being assigned to junior judges.

The Maharashtra government also contended that the statement of the four judges who were with judge Loya in his last hours were “unimpeacheable”. Judges J Kulkarni, J Barde, J Modak and JRR Rathi had given statements had given statements that said the death of Judge Loya was “natural and unfortunate”, the state said.

The petitioners pointed out that the judge was a teetotaller and led an active life, playing tennis every day for two hours. He or his family had no history of heart ailments, the court was further told.

At Bombay High Court, the advocate representing the Bombay Lawyers’ Association, raised questions over the inquiry done by the police and authorities. On the other side, senior advocate Harish Salve who was representing the police authorities said that the state police had carried “discreet inquiry” into the matter. Salve also submitted the statements of other four judges who had attended the wedding with Loya. The statements showed that there was no foul play in his death.

THE CASE STORY BY THE JOURNALIST WHO BROKE THE STORY

(Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the story in The Caravan spoke on why they believe a probe is necessary on the first public talk he gave at the Indian Social Institute under the aegis of All India People’s Forum)

I was visiting Pune in connection with a story some time in 2016. A friend of mine came to the hotel I was staying in and introduced me to Nupur Biyani, who was the niece of late B.H. Loya. She confided in me whatever she had heard being said in the family since December, 2014 when the judge died and asked if I would report it.

I told her that I could not just depend on her second-hand story. I asked her to speak to her mother, judge Loya’s sister, and find out if she would be willing to give me an interview on record. I ended up speaking to Nupur’s mother and grandfather, father of the late judge, in November, 2016.  It was an audio interview that lasted for several hours.

A curious detail I remember is that barely five minutes after I arrived at Loya senior’s house in Latur, he received a call to enquire about the guest he was entertaining and the guest’s background. With great presence of mind, he told the caller that the guest was someone he knew and that he had lost his way and had come to spend some time and get the right directions.

On my return I spoke to lawyers in Mumbai who were privy to the case judge Loya was hearing. I visited Nagpur and tried to piece together the sequence of events. I then filed the report to the magazine I was working for (The Week) in February, 2017. The editors sought various clarifications and I checked and re-checked the details and met people or spoke to them more than once while updating the report.

But in October 2017, I was finally informed that the story would not be published. I resigned in November and began exploring a platform for the story. I owed it to the people who had confided in me, trusted me and parted with information. Friends egged me on and said that the least I could do was to restore faith of the people in the media.

That is when I decided to have a video interview with judge Loya’s father. He was not in Latur. He had gone to stay with another of his daughters in Aurangabad. Both of them readily agreed to speak on camera. By that time I had already sent the report to The Caravan and the editors there had been seeking clarifications, consulting lawyers and checking facts. The video interview also turned out to be a long one. It was November 17, 2017. The Caravan broke the story on November 20.

These details are important because the timing of the report’s publication was criticised and it was said that it had been timed to coincide with the Gujarat election. But the timeline will show that it took me a year of investigation before the story was finally published and it had nothing to do with any election.

Barely 12 days after my video interview, on November 29, a few judges broke their silence and briefed The Indian Express and NDTV to claim that judge Loya had died a natural death and that they had a letter from judge Loya’s son to this effect.

I would of course be curious to learn what changed in those 12 days and how. How did doubts that were strong till November 17, 2017, were allayed by November 29? How did it happen and who helped in dispelling those doubts?

Anuj Loya’s press conference at the office of a law firm and his plea that the family should be left alone, raises more questions than it answers. As his paternal uncle told The Caravan, the boy barely out of his teens is under considerable pres¬sure and I do not blame him at all.

Anuj Loya’s Letter to The Caravan

But I would like to point out that the two judges who had accompanied judge Loya to Nagpur on November 29, have maintained complete silence. They had met the family a month and a half after the judge’s allegedly ‘natural death’ and confided that they had taken the judge in an autorickshaw to the Dande Hospital.

The narrative then changed at some point and it was claimed that an official of the Nagpur bench of the high court had driven judge Loya in his own car to the hospital.

It is also revealing that Ishwar Baheti, who returned judge Loya’s mobile phone to the family after deleting all the messages, too has not spoken yet.

I am grateful to The Caravan and its editors for placing their trust in me and senior journalists like Kumar Ketkar and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who guided me when I needed guidance the most. As a journalist I will always trust that my job is to tell the truth and shame the devils.

 

The ISSUES that shook 

Making a strong case for an independent inquiry into the death, Justice (rtd) Kolse Patil declared that before his death judge Loya had confided in him the pressure he was being subjected to. He was being summoned at midnight and asked to discharge the BJP president by the end of December, 2014. Gaware confirmed that on his visit to Latur during Diwali in 2014, weeks before his death, Judge Loya had confided to his friends in Latur that he had been offered Rs 100 crore in return of a favourable order.

While welcoming the gathering, Gautam Modi of AIPF declared that since Judge Gosavi had taken just three working days to hear the case, go through the chargesheet that extended to 10,000 pages and heard the CBI for all of 15 minutes before discharging the petition, there were bonafide reasons for an inquiry.

The burden of proof in the case of a crime, underscored Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising, was not on the family but on the state and the Supreme Court to allay all doubts. Having assisted the CBI in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case as counsel, she was privy to the evidence collected against the accused and as long as she was the CBI counsel, even the Gujarat high court had refused bail to the accused.

The moot question in the Loya case, she said, is whether the government is interfering in the judiciary. The real players are neither the Chief Justice of India nor the four judges of the high court—they are hidden puppeteers who need to be exposed, she said.

Four senior-most apex court judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — at their January 12 press conference had questioned the manner in which sensitive cases were being allocated and Loya’s case was one of them.

 

Issues that remain Unanswered!

1. Why was Judge JT Utpat, Judge Loya’s predecessor in hearing the case, transferred from hearing the case despite a 2012 Supreme Court order specifying that the same judge should hear the matter from start to finish?

2. Were Bombay High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah or the principal accused Amit Shah aware of any alleged inducements offered to Judge Loya to ensure a favourable judgment in the case?

3. Does Justice Mohit Shah deny the allegation by Judge Loya’s sister Anuradha Biyani, that he himself made an offer of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment?

4. Who made the arrangements for Judge Loya’s transportation to Dande Hospital on the night of his death, and why was this not in a vehicle from the government guest house or an ambulance?

5. Do Dande Hospital and/or Meditrina Hospital have records indicating what medication was provided to Judge Loya while in their care, and who was with him at the time?

6. What was the time of Judge Loya’s death according to the records of Meditrina Hospital and when do call records show this was intimated to Judge Loya’s family? Did the death occur at 6:15 am or before 5 am on 1 December 2014, or did it in fact occur before midnight?

7. Bribery claims: The allegation by Loya’s relatives that the judge had been offered a bribe by the former chief justice of the Bombay high court remain unaddressed so far, and the chief justice in question has chosen not to speak on the matter.

8. Telephone data: Loya’s relatives also told Caravan that his phone was only returned to them 2-3 days after his death and that the data appeared to have been deleted.

9. Silence of wife and son: Caravan said Loya’s wife and son “feared for their lives” and hence declined to speak to their reporter. But the magazine did carry details of the letter written by the son to the chief justice of the Bombay high court asking for his father’s death to be probed.

 

SC Dismiised Petition for Probe in Death

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, dismisses petition seeking probe into death of CBI Special Judge B H Loya, ruling that Judge Loya died due to “natural causes”, observed that the petitioners tried to “scandalise” the judiciary.

The Court said,  “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.”

Further the SC had sent the case back to High Court for other issues raised in case.

“Since the case also raises certain other matters (other than the death of Judge Loya), learned counsel requested this
Court to remit the proceedings back to enable the petitioner to pursue before the High Court the reliefs sought on matters other than the death of Judge Loya. We find the request to be fair and proper. We accordingly direct that the present case shall be remitted back to the Nagpur Bench of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay. However, we clarify that the circumstances relating to the death of Judge Loya which have been dealt with by this Court in the judgment delivered.”