Shocking statements have been made by the family of late Judge Brijgopal Harikishan Loya of the Special CBI Court in Mumbai, who met with an untimely and “suspicious” demise in 2014. In November 2014, Justice Loya was presiding over only one trial – the alleged “fake encounter” case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi in 2005. The prime accused in the case was Amit Shah. Judge Loya’s sister Anuradha Biyani has alleged that Loya had been offered a bribe of Rs 100 Crores by Mohit Shah – Chief Justice of Bombay High Court from 2010 to 2015 – to provide a favourable judgement in the case. Amit Shah was minister of state for home (Gujarat) at the time of Sohrabuddin’s killing in 2005, and the national president of BJP at the time of Loya’s death in 2014.
An investigative report by Niranjan Takle published in The Caravan on Monday uncovered glaring inconsistencies relating to the circumstances of Loya’s death and the events following it. The article reports conversations with members of Loya’s family and government servants in Nagpur who witnessed the procedures followed with the judge’s body after his death, including the post-mortem.
In a follow-up article published on Tuesday, November 21, the late judge’s sister Anuradha Biyani told Caravan that Loya had been approached by Chief Justice Mohit Shah to provide a favourable judgement in the case for a bribe of Rs 100 crore.
The article adds that according to Biyani, Mohit Shah “would call him [Judge Loya] late at night to meet in civil dress and pressure him to issue the judgment as soon as possible and to ensure that it is a positive judgment.”
Biyani states in the report, “My brother was offered a bribe of 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment. Mohit Shah, the chief justice, made the offer himself.”
Biyani also claims that Mohit Shah told her brother that if “the judgment is delivered before 30 December, it won’t be under focus at all because at the same time, there was going to be another explosive story which would ensure that people would not take notice of this.”
Judge Loya’s father Harkishan also spoke to Caravan. Harkishan revealed that his son had also confided in him about the bribery. The article reports Harkishan’s statements as reproduced below:
“Yes, he was offered money,” Harkishan said. “Do you want a house in Mumbai, how much land do you want, how much money do you want, he used to tell us this. This was an offer.”
Harkishan added that his son did not succumb to the offers.
Amit Shah vs. Sohrabuddin – A History of The Case
In 2012, the Supreme Court had ordered that the trial in the Soharabuddin case be shifted from Gujarat to Maharashtra to preserve the integrity of the trial. In addition, the Supreme Court had also added that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish.
On 6 June 2014, JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, had reprimanded Amit Shah for seeking exemption from appearing in court. After Shah failed to appear for the hearing on 20 June as well, Utpat fixed the next date of hearing for 26 June and ordered Amit Shah to remain present. Utpat was transferred on 25 June, violating Supreme Court’s earlier mentioned order, and replaced by Judge Loya.
On 31 October 2014, Loya, who had allowed Shah further exemptions, inquired as to why Shah had failed to appear in court despite being in Mumbai on that date. He set the next date of hearing for 15 December and, once again, Amit Shah was ordered to remain present.
On the morning of December 1, 2014, Loya’s family was informed that he had died in Nagpur, where he had travelled to attend the wedding of the daughter of fellow judge Swapna Joshi.
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Subsequently, only one month after Loya’s death, his successor Judge MB Gosavi, discharged Amit Shah from the case on 30 December, 2014. Judge Gosavi stated that he found substance in the applicant’s contention that he was involved in the case by the CBI for political reasons.
The Suspicious Death of Judge Loya
According the Caravan, Loya’s family was told that he had died of cardiac arrest. The accounts of family members state that he was taken to Dande Hospital, a private hospital, in an auto-rickshaw from Ravi Bhavan, a government guest house in Nagpur, which regularly hosts VIPs, including ministers, IAS and IPS officers and judges. Loya was later shifted to Meditrina Hospital, another privately owned hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
Anuradha Biyani described Dande Hospital as an “obscure place” and later came to know that the electrocardiograph (ECG) unit at the Hospital was not working. Biyani, herself a government doctor, told Caravan that she had taken down notes in a personal diary that she maintained, regarding the condition in which Loya’s body was brought. The diary entry read, “There was blood on his collar. His belt was twisted in the opposite direction, and the pant clip is broken. Even my uncle feels that this is suspicious.” This diary entry was substantiated by the statements of Harikishan Loya, the judge’s father.
Adding to these, it is reported that Loya’s father was contacted by one Ishwar Baheti, an RSS worker, informing him that he would arrange for the body reach Gategaon, where the father usually resides. There is no information as why, how and when Baheti came to know about the death of Brij Loya.
Sarita Mandhane, another of Loya’s sisters, who resides in Aurangabad but was visiting Latur at the time, was informed by a person, who identified himself as Barde over the phone, that Brij had passed away and to rush to Nagpur.
Although, when she reached Sarda Hospital in Latur to pick up a nephew who was admitted there, she was met with Ishwar Baheti, the RSS worker, who insisted that he had been talking to people through the night in Nagpur, and that there was no point in going to Nagpur as the body was being sent to Gategaon from there in an ambulance.
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Biyani also pointed to the fact that Loya’s body was delivered unaccompanied by anyone except the driver of the ambulance, which is highly unusual for any public servant.
Biyani was quoted as saying, “The two judges who had insisted that he travel to Nagpur for the marriage had not accompanied him. Mr Barde, who informed the family of his death and his post-mortem, had not accompanied him. This question haunts me: why was his body not accompanied by anyone?” According to the article, one of her diary entries reads, “He was a CBI court judge, he was supposed to have security and he deserved to be properly accompanied.”
The report mentions that Biyani received Loya’s mobile on the third or fourth day, although she asked for it immediately. “It had information about his calls and all that happened. We would have known about it if we got it. And the SMSes. Just one or two days before this news, a message had come which said, ‘Sir, stay safe from these people.’ That SMS was on the phone. Everything was deleted from it,” said Biyani to the magazine.
According to legal experts consulted by Indus Dictum, a panchnama is done at the spot of death by police officers and witnesses, and the personal belongings of the deceased (including phones, diaries, pen, etc.) are sealed and listed in the panchnama. They are then handed over to the legal heir. Loya’s mobile phone however, was returned to the family not by the police, but by Ishwar Baheti.
According to Caravan, the post-mortem report has been signed by the senior police inspector of Sadar Police Station and by someone who signed with the phrase “maiyatacha chulatbhau” – or the paternal cousin brother of the deceased. Loya’s father is reported to have denied having any such relation in Nagpur and that whoever signed the report is still an unanswered question.
As stated in the article, the post-mortem report mentions that the body was brought in at 10.50 am on 1 December 2014. The post-mortem began at 10.55 am, and that it was over by 11.55 am. The report also noted that, as per the police, Loya “died on 1/12/14 at 0615 hours” after experiencing “chest pains at 0400 am.”
According to the Caravan, Loya’s family members had started receiving calls about his death from 5 am onwards, whereas the time of death mentioned in the post-mortem report is 6.15 am.
Caravan‘s sources in Nagpur’s Government Medical College and Sitabardi police station said that they had been informed of Loya’s death by midnight, and had personally seen the dead body during the night and the post-mortem had been done shortly after midnight.
Other concerns regarding the probable cause of death, which was mentioned as “coronary artery insufficiency” in the post-mortem report, are also raised in the article, as Brij Loya had a strong medical history and had no family history of heart conditions, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes which are the causes for such coronary artery insufficiency.
Questions by Judge Loya’s Family
The events as described by Brij Loya’s family in the report raise a series of question with regard to the death and the procedures followed after it.
- Why was the family not informed when Loya was taken to hospital? Why were they not informed as soon as he died?
- What medication was administered to him at Dande Hospital?
- Who recommended the post-mortem, and why? What was suspicious about Loya’s death to cause a post-mortem to be recommended?
- Why were they not asked for approval of a post-mortem, or informed that one was to be performed, before the procedure was carried out?
- Was there no vehicle in Ravi Bhavan – which regularly hosts VIPs, Ministers, IAS and IPS officers, and judges – available to take Judge Loya to the hospital?
Loya’s wife and son are reported to have declined to speak, saying they feared for their lives. The statements from the other family members also come three years after Loya’s death.