By Muslim Mirror Desk,
New Delhi: Three years after the mysterious death of Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, the special judge of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who was presiding over trial in Mumbai against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah and several other top Gujarat police officers for their alleged involvements in Kausar Bi and Sohrabuddin encounter cases, some of his family members broke the silence .
On December 1, 2014, Loya’s family was informed that he had died at a government guest house for VIPs in Nagpur, where he had travelled for a colleague’s daughter’s wedding. The family was told that Loya had died of a cardiac arrest. He had chest pain, and so was taken to Dande Hospital, a private hospital in Nagpur, by an auto rickshaw, where some medication was provided.
In an interview to the Caravan magazine, Loya’s sister described Dande Hospital as “an obscure place”, and said that she “later learnt that the ECG”—the electrocardiography unit at the facility—“was not working.” Later, Loya “was shifted to Meditrina hospital”— another private hospital in the city— “where he was declared dead on arrival”.
The investigative report, which based on a series on interviews with Loya’s family members and government servants in Nagpur who witnessed the procedures followed with regard to the judge’s body after his death, including the post-mortem, raises deeply disturbing questions the death that include the following:
1. Why, how and when did an RSS man come to know about Loya’s death even before family?
Loya’s family members – his wife in Mumbai, father in Latur city and two sisters in Dhule (Jalgaon) and Aurangabad received calls – on the morning of December 1, 2014, from someone who identified himself as a judge named Barde. They were informed “that Loya passed away in the night, that his post-mortem was over and his body had been sent to our ancestral home in Gategaon, in Latur district”.
The same caller also informed Biyani and other members of the family that a post-mortem had been conducted on the body, and that the cause of death was a heart attack.
Loya’s father normally resides in Gategaon, but was in Latur at the time, at the house of one of his daughters. He, too, received a phone call, telling him his son’s body would be moved to Gategaon.
Ishwar Baheti, an RSS worker, had informed father that he would arrange for the body to reach Gategaon. Nobody knows why, how and when he came to know about the death of Brij Loya.
Loya’s another sister Sarita Mandhane, who runs a tuition centre in Aurangabad and was visiting Latur at the time, received a call from Barde at around 5 am, informing her that Loya had died. “He said that Brij has passed away in Nagpur and asked us to rush to Nagpur,” she said. She set out to pick up her nephew from a hospital in Latur where he had earlier been admitted, but “just as we were leaving the hospital, this person, Ishwar Baheti, came there. I still don’t know how he came to know that we were at Sarda Hospital”.
The Sohrabuddin case was the only one that Loya was hearing at the time of his death and was one of the most carefully watched cases then underway in the country. In 2012, the Supreme Court had ordered that the trial in the case be shifted from Gujarat to Maharashtra, stating that it was “convinced that in order to preserve the integrity of the trial it is necessary to shift it outside the State.” The apex court had also ordered that the trial be heard by the same judge from start to finish. But, in violation of this order, JT Utpat, the judge who first heard the trial, was transferred from the CBI special court in mid 2014, and replaced by Loya.
On June 6, 2014, Utpat had reprimanded Amit Shah for seeking exemption from appearing in court. After Shah failed to appear on the next date, 20 June, Utpat fixed a hearing for June 26. The judge was transferred on June 25. On October 31, 2014, Loya, who had allowed Shah the exemption, asked why Shah had failed to appear in court despite being in Mumbai on that date. He set the next date of hearing for December 15.
The body was delivered at around 11.30 pm, after Biyani’s arrival, according to an entry in her diary. To the family’s shock, none of Loya’s colleagues had accompanied his body on the journey from Nagpur. The only person accompanying the body was the ambulance driver.
Loya’s wife, Sharmila, and his daughter and son, Apurva and Anuj, travelled to Gategaon from Mumbai, accompanied by a few judges. One of them “was constantly telling Anuj and the others not to speak to anybody”. Why?
2. Presence of blood strains on the neck at the back of the shirt
Biyani recounted that when she saw the body, she felt that something was amiss. “There were bloodstains on the neck at the back of the shirt (collar),” she said. She added that his “spectacles were below the neck”. Loya’s spectacles were “stuck under his body”.
His belt was twisted in the opposite direction, and the pant clip is broken. His shirt had blood on it from his left shoulder to his waist.
But in the post-mortem report, issued by the Government Medical College Hospital in Nagpur, under a category described as “Condition of the clothes—whether wet with water, stained with blood or soiled with vomit or foecal matter,” a handwritten entry reads, simply, “Dry.”
Biyani found the state of the body suspicious because, as a doctor, “I know that blood does not come out during PM” — post-mortem — “since the heart and lungs don’t function.”
She said that she demanded a second post-mortem, but that Loya’s gathered friends and colleagues “discouraged us, telling us not to complicate the issue more”.
3. Procedures followed after his death
If Loya’s death was deemed suspicious (the fact that a post-mortem was ordered suggests that it was), a panchnama should have been prepared and a medico-legal case should have been filed.
As per legal procedure, the police department is expected to collect and seal all the personal belongings of the deceased, list them all in a panchnama and hand them over to the family as they are. Contrary to the standard procedure, the family was not given any copy of a panchnama.
Loya’s mobile phone was returned to the family, but, Biyani said, it was returned by Baheti, and not by the police.
The family got his mobile on the third or fourth day despite asking it to be provided immediately. It had information about his calls and all that happened. Had it been given in time, they would have known about 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.
4. How and why Loya had been taken to hospital in an auto rickshaw, when the auto stand nearest to Ravi Bhavan is around two kilometres away from it
There is no auto rickshaw stand near Ravi Bhavan, and people do not get auto rickshaws near Ravi Bhavan even during the day. How did the men accompanying him manage to get an auto rickshaw at midnight?
- Why was the family not informed when Loya was taken to hospital? Why were they not informed as soon as he died? 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? Who recommended the post-mortem and why? What was suspicious about Loya’s death to cause a post-mortem to be recommended?What medication was administered to him at Dande Hospital? Was there not a single vehicle in Ravi Bhavan—which regularly hosts VIPs, including ministers, IAS and IPS officers and judges—available to ferry Loya to hospital?Two men told the family that Loya experienced chest pain at around 12.30 am, that they then took him to Dande Hospital in an auto rickshaw, and that there, “he climbed the stairs himself and some medication was administered. He was taken to Meditrina hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.”
Even after this, many questions were left unanswered. “We did try to get the details of the treatment administered in Dande Hospital, but the doctors and the staff there simply refused to divulge any details,” Biyani said.
Why was the report of the medication administered at Dande hospital not given to the family?
6. Who were the other VIPs staying in Ravi Bhavan on November and December 1?
The winter session of the Maharashtra state assembly was to begin in Nagpur on December 7 and hundreds of officials usually arrive in the city well in advance of assembly sessions for the preparations. Who were the other VIPs staying in Ravi Bhavan on November and 1 December?
- Postmortem report raises several questions
Loya’s post-mortem, conducted at the Government Medical College Hospital in Nagpur. The document raises several questions of its own.
Every page of the post-mortem report is 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.
8. Forged signature
Loya’s father does not have any brother or paternal cousin brother in Nagpur. Who signed on the report is another unanswered question.
9. Variations in the precise time of his death
Further, the report states that the corpse was sent from Meditrina Hospital to the Government Medical College Hospital by the Sitabardi police station, Nagpur, and that it was brought in by a police constable named Pankaj, of Sitabardi police station, whose badge number is 6238. It notes that the body was brought in at 10.50 am on December 1, 2014, that the post-mortem began at 10.55 am, and that it was over at 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.” It stated, “He was brought to Dande hospital first and then shifted to Meditrina hospital where he was declared to be in dead condition.”
The time of death cited in the report — 6.15 am — appears incongruous, since, according to Loya’s family members, they began receiving calls about his death from 5 am onwards. Further, during my investigation, two sources in Nagpur’s Government Medical College and Sitabardi police station told me they had been informed of Loya’s death by midnight, and had personally seen the dead body during the night. They also said that the post-mortem was done shortly after midnight. Apart from the calls that the family received, the sources’ accounts also raise serious questions about the post-mortem report’s claim that the time of death was 6.15 am.
The magazine sources at the medical college, who was privy to the post-mortem examination, also said that he knew that there had been instructions from superiors to “cut up the body as if the PM was done and stitch it up”.
10. The absence of any prior medical history suggesting the possibility of a heart attack
The report mentions “coronary artery insufficiency” as the probable cause of death. Usually, old age, family history, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes are the causes for such coronary artery insufficiency.
But none of these were applicable to her brother. Loya was 48. His parents are 85 and 80 years old, and are healthy with no cardiac history. He was always a teetotaller, played table tennis for two hours a day for years, had no diabetes or blood pressure.
Biyani told me that she found the official medical explanation for her brother’s death hard to believe. “I am a doctor myself, and Brij used to consult me even for minor complaints such as acidity or cough,” she said. “He had no cardiac history and no one from our family has it.”