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Nagpur Police verifying probe into judge Loya’s death, still waiting to talk to family

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Inspector in charge of probe says since the judge’s family never gave a statement, the file could not be closed. Insists it still looks like a natural death.

Nagpur: The Nagpur Police has again begun verifying details connected to the 2014 death of B.H. Loya, the CBI special court judge in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, after discovering that the case file had not been closed.

The Sadar police station in the city last week began recording fresh statements in connection with the unnatural death of the 48-year-old judge, following reports in a section of the media that raised questions over the circumstances in which he died.

The family of the judge had not given its statement to the police, and the probe could not be concluded without the statement, senior police inspector S.S. Bonde of the Sadar police station told ThePrint.

“After the media reports, I received a call from the police commissioner’s office asking me about the case. That is when I dug out the file and realised that the case is yet to be closed, and some blanks are yet to be filled,” Bonde said.

With Loya’s family unwilling to speak to the police in the months following his death, the probe lingered and went into cold storage, Bonde added.

“I was transferred here only in 2017. But from what I have gathered so far, even earlier, the investigating officer made many attempts to speak to the immediate family. They made calls and even informed the local police station in Gategaon, Latur, Justice Loya’s native place, where the body was taken.

“They even got the local police station to inform the sarpanch to convey their message to the Loya family. But, the family kept dilly-dallying. Ever since we started re-recording other statements earlier this month, the family has been unreachable. We cannot close the probe without the family’s statement,” said Bonde, the current investigating officer.

An internal police note from April 2016 mentions the need to get the family’s version along with a copy of the booking register for 30 November 2014 of Ravi Bhavan, the government guest house in Nagpur’s Civil Lines Area where Loya was staying.

“Until now, the investigation does not suggest any foul play, and is consistent with what was understood to have happened in 2014,” Bonde said. “We will continue to make efforts to get in touch with the family, the government guesthouse, and the other judges present with Loya.”

High profile case, bribery allegation

Loya died on 1 December 2014, due to a cardiac arrest, official records say. The post-mortem report states the cause of death as “coronary artery insufficiency”, and mentions that there were no other injuries or wounds, and records the time of death as 6.15 am.

Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding of a fellow judge’s daughter the previous day. At that time, Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, in which Amit Shah, now the national president of the BJP, was one of the accused. The following month, Shah was discharged, and the CBI is yet to appeal against it. Loya was the second judge to hear the case after the CBI special court trial judge J.T. Utpat was transferred.

Earlier this month, The Caravan magazine published a report in which Loya’s father, Harikishan Loya, and sisters Anuradha Biyani, a government doctor in Dhule, and Sarita Mandhane, a teacher in Aurangabad, alleged that Loya was under immense pressure to give a favourable verdict in the case.

The report also quoted them as alleging that Loya had been offered a bribe by former Bombay High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah, and raising suspicion over the circumstances of Loya’s death.

Reached by ThePrint for his comment, Shah, who is now retired, declined to respond. “In any case, I don’t interact with the media,” he said.

Harikishan Loya, Biyani, Mandhane, as well as Loya’s son, Anuj, were not available for comment, with their phones switched off. Loya’s uncle, Srinivas Loya, who lives in Latur, and maternal cousin Rukhmesh Jakhotiya, who lives in Aurangabad, said they had not heard from the family for about a week, and were unaware of their exact whereabouts.

“Justice Loya’s daughter, Apurva, got engaged on 11 November, for which all of us went to Pune. I don’t think the immediate family returned to Gategaon since then,” Srinivas Loya said.

Retracing Loya’s last day

Following The Caravan report, follow-ups and demands for a fresh probe into Loya’s death, the Sadar police got in touch with people linked to the case.

Since 22 November 2017, they’ve recorded statements of doctors at the two hospitals Loya was taken to, the person who signed the post-mortem report, the owner of the ambulance agency, the driver who drove the body to Latur, and the constable who went along.

They have also procured hospital documents such as the histopathology report, the electrocardiography report, the post-mortem report, the medico-legal report, and hope to complete recording all statements required within a month.

So far, Bonde and his team have been able to ascertain that Loya started complaining of chest pain at 4 am on 1 December at the Ravi Bhavan guest house. Shrikant Kulkarni, another judge, is said to have been with Loya, and accompanied him to Dande Hospital, about 3 km away. His team is yet to record Kulkarni’s statement.

“Kulkarni has also filled details on the medico-legal report, so he is likely to have been there with Loya. Other than that, the Dande Hospital staff is not very clear about who all accompanied Loya, as they were more worried about the patient,” Bonde said.

Kulkarni did not respond to calls and text messages from ThePrint.

Two persons demanding a probe into judge B.H. Loya's demise
A protest in Mumbai over judge Loya’s death | @ashokpai64

“No injuries on body”

The Sadar police last week recorded a fresh statement from Dr Pinak Dande, managing director of Dande Hospital. It says an ECG was performed at 5.11 am, and since the report indicated that the situation was serious, the patient was shifted to Meditrina Hospital.

The police have also procured the ECG report. Although the report mentions the date of the procedure as 30 November, Bonde said that these kind of machine glitches with the date were not uncommon, especially if the procedure is being performed in the wee hours.

Admission notes by Meditrina Hospital say the patient collapsed while shifting.

Last week, Bonde reached out to Dr Prashant Rathi, an orthopaedician at Rathi Hospital in Nagpur’s Dharampeth, for a fresh statement. Rathi’s statement says his uncle Jakhotiya from Aurangabad informed him about Loya’s medical emergency, and that the judge was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

Rathi’s statement says Jakhotiya asked him to complete the formalities as a relative, because it would take a long time for his immediate family to travel to Nagpur. He also told the police in his statement that he spoke to the doctors to understand that Loya died of a massive cardiac arrest.

“My uncle called me at about 6.30-7 am telling me about his relative, and asking me to help out. I did not see the body. It was wrapped in a sheet, I cannot recollect, by the time I reached. I do not know what happened before that, so I cannot comment on it. I only helped out my uncle because he asked me to,” Rathi told ThePrint.

Besides, the Sadar police have also recorded statements of Pavankumar Bhagat, the owner of the Tata Sumo ambulance, Ashish Tembhekar, the ambulance driver, and traffic constable Prashant Thavre. Thavre said in his statement that since the ambulance was a Tata Sumo, there wasn’t space for him to sit in the ambulance with the driver and Loya’s body, and hence, he sat in the car trailing the ambulance along with two judges.

They left Nagpur around noon on 1 December and stayed at a judge’s bungalow after handing over the body to the family. Neither the panchnama nor any other documents in the file mention any list of possessions found on Loya’s body. The panchnama simply says he was wearing a grey shirt with blue jeans and a black belt and there were no injuries on his face, stomach, or back.

The RSS worker-friend of Loya

In The Caravan report, Loya’s father raised questions about who signed the post-mortem report, maintaining that he did not have any cousin in Nagpur. The family also raised questions as to how Ishwar Baheti, who they identify as a RSS worker, knew things the immediate family was not told first.

Baheti was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

Jakhotiya, the businessman in Aurangabad who asked Rathi in Nagpur to take care of all procedures and take charge of Loya’s body, told ThePrint he did what he did being Loya’s first cousin. “Brij’s (Loya’s) mother is my maasi (aunt). Ishwar Baheti called me and informed me about his condition in Nagpur, so I immediately called Dr Prashant Rathi, the son of my sister-in-law. Baheti was a good friend of Brij, and told me he was in touch with the family.”

Jakhotiya said he and his family then made way to Gategaon for the funeral. Loya’s uncle, Srinivas Loya, too confirmed that Baheti and Loya were good friends. “As far as I know, they didn’t study together, but being from the same village they were friends. I would say they were close.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The fact that Nagpur police are blaming the family for delaying the case is a first sign of where their loyalties lie. The death is definitely fishy and a massive cover up is on. Trust in cops is so low these days because of their collusion with BJP- RSS that talk of the police investigating this is scarier than no enquiry at all. One suspects all evidence will vanish now, if it hasn’t already. It’s sad, but expected. A man died in the Loya family, and the cops expect the suspecting family members to go to the very authorities that might have helped in this? Now they ve gagged media on Sohrabuddin trial. You have to be very thick to think nothing is suspicious here. Ofcourse, every defensive action of judges and cops will now be rationalised by an adoring majority. But this is not what India signed up for when they voted BJP. This is worse than some authoritarian regimes. Are there no independent cops left in India? A clean chit from Nagpur police will be the biggest joke at this juncture.

  2. CBI JUDGE DEATH MYSTERY DEEPENED WITH MANAGING DECEASED SON WRITING LETTER TO CHIEF JUSTICE OF MUMBAI HIGH COURT SAYING NO FOUL PLAY WHICH NOW RAISED MORE QUESTIONS THEN ANSWERS

    1. His young son written to Chief Justice in Feb 2015 fearing for life to family

    2. He also at that time asked for investigation which never happened
    and why sudden change of heart who forced him to do so

    3. Why judge sister statement is not collaborated with judges version
    who have separate version which does not tally with sister version

    4. What about the Chief Justice at that time used to visit judge home
    offering Rs.100 crores for favorable judgement

    5. Why after his death in just 17 days favorable judgement obtained

    6 Why new cbi judge not be questioned for passing so fast judgement
    7 There are so many contradictions which needs to addressed

    IN FACT EVERY THING HAS BEEN MANAGED TO PROTECT THE PRESIDENT OF BJP

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