The family of Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, a 48-year-old judge who died in 2014 when he was hearing the matter related to the allegedly staged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, has spoken up about a number of suspicious details regarding Loya’s death.
Although official reports at the time called Loya’s death an otherwise unremarkable heart attack, members of his family told the Caravan that there are inconsistencies in many parts of this story, from the recorded time of death and the condition his body was found in to the way it was handled.
Loya took over as the judge in the Special Central Bureau of Investigation Court in Mumbai after another judge had been transferred. At the time of his death in 2014, the only case he was hearing was that of Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s alleged encounter. Sheikh, a wanted criminal, was allegedly killed in a staged encounter by Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorism Squad. The original inquiry into the matter was accused of taking place at the behest of Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, who was then home minister of Gujarat. Shah was cleared of all charges by a court in 2015.
At the time of his death, Loya was in Nagpur for a colleague’s daughter’s wedding. According to the Caravan, some members of the family were informed about the death by Ishwar Baheti, a worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who also arranged for Loya’s body to be moved to Gategoan, his native village. The family does not know how Baheti came to know of Loya’s death, and why he was involved.
Additionally, the family found that Loya’s body was sent unaccompanied by anyone but the ambulance driver. Anuradha Biyani, the judge’s sister, said that there was blood on his collar and shirt, his belt was twisted and pant clip was broken. Yet the official post-mortem said the clothes were dry and that he had died of a heart attack. The family also said that the post-mortem had not been accompanied a panchnama or a medico-legal case.
The post-mortem document itself was signed by someone claiming to be Loya’s paternal cousin brother, but the judge’s father said there was no such relation and it is unknown who signed it. The time of death on the document also does not match with a number of other details, including what other people said about how Loya died. Loya’s phone was also only returned to the family a few days later, and not by the police but Baheti, the RSS worker.
According to the Caravan report, the family had asked for an inquiry commission to investigate Loya’s death, but it was never taken up.