Bombay High Court judges Bhushan Gavai and Sunil Shukre, who were at the hospital when Central Bureau of Investigation judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya was declared dead in 2014, have told The Indian Express that there was nothing questionable or suspicious about the circumstances around his death.
Loya died around the time he was hearing a matter related to the allegedly staged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh – a case in which Amit Shah, now the Bharatiya Janata Party national president, was an accused. Loya’s family has raised a number of questions about his death, as reported by The Caravan on November 20.
While recalling the sequence of events, Justice Gavai said that after a wedding in Nagpur on November 30, Loya had experienced a “health problem” while staying at a guest house with two other judges. He said local judge Vijaykumar Barde and Rupesh Rathi, then deputy registrar of the Nagpur bench of the High Court, took him to Dande Hospital about 3 km from the guest house.
Here, Justice Shukre refutes The Caravan report, saying Barde drove Loya to the hospital in his own car, and there was “no question of taking him in an autorickshaw”.
ECG was done, shows hospital record
Loya’s sister told The Caravan that authorities at the Dande Hospital did not conduct an electrocardiography test as the unit was not working. But investigations by The Indian Express and NDTV found that the test was carried out. Hospital Director Pinak Dande said Loya was taken to Meditrina Hospital after the ECG.
According to Meditrina’s records on Loya, he suffered “retrosternal chest pain and had collapsed” while on the way to the hospital. It says that despite resuscitation and other methods of emergency treatment, Loya could not be revived.
Justice Gavai said he got a call from the High Court registrar around that time and went to Meditrina with Justice Sunil Shukre. A few other judges, including then Chief Justice Mohit Shah, also followed, he said. “Loya’s life unfortunately couldn’t be saved,” Gavai said. “There was absolutely nothing suspicious about the death or the events around it.”
While Loya’s family claimed that the post-mortem examination report was signed by someone claiming to be his paternal cousin, the judge’s father said there was no such relation. The family also said that there was no panchnama or medico-legal case accompanying the autopsy.
Both The Indian Express and NDTV reported that one Dr Prashant Rathi signed the document. He said his uncle in Aurangabad, who was Loya’s cousin, had asked him to help the family, and that the judges who were present there asked for an autopsy. A senior police officer was called from the Sitabuldi Police Station for the panchnama, Rathi said.
While Anuradha Biyani, Loya’s sister, told The Caravan that there was blood on his collar and shirt, and that his belt was twisted and pant clip broken, the official autopsy said the clothes were dry and he had died of a heart attack.
A senior government forensic expert explained that “blood is bound to spill out during post-mortem examination” as major cavities in the body are opened.
Body reportedly accompanied by two judges
According to The Caravan, the family said Loya’s body was sent to Latur unaccompanied by anyone but the ambulance driver. But Justice Gavai said, “I had personally told then Principal District Judge KK Sonawane to send two judges along with the body.”
Junior division civil judges Yogesh Rahangdale and Swayam Chopda had followed the ambulance in a car, but it developed a “snag a little beyond Nanded”, Gavai said, adding that they reached about 15 minutes later.
The demand for an investigation into Loya’s death has gathered support from many circles. Retired Bombay High Court judge BH Marlapalle, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah and the Latur Bar Association have sought an inquiry.