The courts do not give credence to the newspaper reports, but the Supreme Court took an exceptional step of reproducing two articles published in Delhi-based Caravan magazine in the judgment on Thursday rejecting plea for an independent probe into the death of Mumbai judge Brijgopal Harikishan Loya in Nagpur on December 1, 2014. The 114-page judgment after nine hearings spread over two months rather starts with 11 pages devoted to the magazine’s two articles as “the context” that the petitions were founded on these articles, creating doubts of mystery in the judge’s death. The judgment answers many questions raised by the Congress on Thursday without going through the details. Here are answers to some of the doubts:
On Caravan asking who recommended the post-mortem without the family’s consent, the judgment says: “The ‘progress notes’ of the doctor at Meditrina hospital indicate that a post-mortem was advised. This sets at rest the doubts raised in the Caravan article.”It added that the post-mortem in Nagpur’s government medical hospital became necessary because Judge Loya was ‘brought dead’.”
Certain doubts raised by the Caravan on the role of a RSS man, one Ishwar Baheti, involved after Loya’s death were also scotched as the Maharashtra intelligence found one 60-year old person by this name running a store in Latur who had association with the RSS long time ago had nothing to do as he did not even know Loya. The real Ishwar Govindlal Baheti, who runs a medical pharmacy at Latur and an old friend of Loya for over 35 years, said he was rather a worker of late Vilasrao Deshmukh, a Congress chief minister of Maharashtra.
On the Caravan claiming that the body was not accompanied by anyone when sent to Loya’s village by an ambulance, the Court noted that rather two judicial magistrates from Nagpur, Yogesh Rahangdale and Swayam Chopda were deputed by Judge Sonawane, Principal District Judge, Nagpur to accompany the body.
The Court also noted that Caravan’s claim of blood-stains on the neck of the deceased is contrary to the post-mortem report which stated that there were no external injuries on the body. It further noted that the members of Judge Loya’s family including his son, wife, father and sister have not supported the insinuations in the Caravan article.
As regards “unfounded insinuations” in the second article of the magazine on November 21, 2017 against then Bombay High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah, the Court said these have been leveled on the basis of an array of hearsay versions and replete with falsehoods. The family members disassociated themselves from the allegations on Justice Shah offering money to Judge Loya to let off BJP President Amit Shah in the Shahbuddin encounter case he was hearing.
The court also dismissed doubts expressed during the hearing whether the three judges stayed at Ravi Bhavan in Nagpur, saying “the report in Caravan expressly acknowledges that it was at Ravi Bhavan that they had stayed during their visit to Nagpur.”
As regards Caravan quoting forensic expert Dr R K Sharma of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) that it cannot be death due to heart attack, the Court recorded that Dr Sharma has clarified that he was grossly misquoted by Caravan and that the conclusions in the article are imaginary. In his explanation to AIIMS, he said: “I have been grossly misquoted by Caravan magazine regarding death of Judge Loya. The conclusions drawn are imaginary. I had general discussion with the reporter. I do not agree with contents of report published which are ascribed to me. I have not given any report regarding death of Judge Loya.”
The Court said Dr Harish Pathak, Head of Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at KEM hospital, Mumbai, also specifically mentions that the findings in the post-mortem and histo-pathology reports are indicative of acute coronary insufficiency and that claims of foul play and suspicions played up by Caravan are unscientific and incorrect.” It dismissed as “red-herring” Caravan article claiming that Judge Loya was transported by an auto-rickshaw since no car was available at 4 am on December 1, 2014. It quoted Judges Kulkarni and Modak that Loya was taken to hospital in Judge Barde’s car.
On doubts expressed during the hearing on how three judges would have shared a room with just two beds, Judge Kulkarni has referred to the fact that a VIP suite was booked at Ravi Bhavan. Judge Modak and Judge Barde support the position. The Court said: “The account provided by the judge cannot be discredited on the basis of surmises. The occupancy register does show that the room was in the name of Judge Kulkarni. His account is that his two friends and colleagues (Judge Loya and Judge Modak) shared the accommodation with him. It is unfair to disbelieve this account of colleagues in the district judiciary.”
The Court also said the handing over of the body to Dr Prashant Rathi cannot be faulted, noting that the family of Judge Loya took a considered decision that they would proceed to his home town, Gategaon, for the funeral ceremonies. “If the family decided that the funeral should be held at the place to which he belonged namely, Gategon near Latur, this was a decision personal to the family.”