The post-mortem examination of former Central Bureau of Investigation Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya at Nagpur’s Government Medical College was “directed” by a doctor who has until now managed to keep his name out of all medical and court documents related to the case, a report in The Caravan has alleged.
At the time of his death on December 1, 2014, Judge Loya was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, in which Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah was an accused.
Doubts about whether Loya died from natural causes were raised after The Caravan published a report in November 2017. A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanvilkar and DY Chandrachud is now hearing petitions demanding an independent investigation into Loya’s death. The Maharashtra government, however, maintains that the media reports questioning the circumstances of Judge Loya’s death were “blatantly incorrect and imaginary”.
However, a new investigation by The Caravan magazine published on Monday alleged that while official records showed Loya’s post-mortem was conducted by Dr NK Tumram, who was a lecturer in the forensic medicine department of the Government Medical College at the time, the operation was led by a Dr Makarand Vyawahare, then a professor in the department. Vyawahare was later investigated by the institution for manipulating several other post-mortems, the report claimed.
Vyawahare is the brother-in-law of Sudhir Mungantiwar – finance minister in the BJP government in Maharashtra. He is also a member of the powerful Maharashtra Medical Council and is currently the head of the forensic department at another institution in Nagpur.
The magazine’s report is based on the testimonies of 14 current and former employees of the hospital, including some people who had direct knowledge of Loya’s autopsy. All their statements seem to point to Vyawahare’s role in dictating what should be included in Loya’s post-mortem report.
One employee claimed there was an injury “on the back, towards the right side” of Loya’s head. “The injury was of the kind that is there when a stone hits and the skin tears,” the employee told the magazine, and added that the wound was deep enough for blood to have gushed out of it.
The employee said when Tumram tried to point something out to Vyawahare during the post-mortem, the senior doctor allegedly said, “Write only as much as I am telling you.” Vyawahare allegedly told Tumram after the autopsy was done to “write the findings of the post-mortem report in front of me”.
The final report did not mention the head injury, and instead said the probable cause of Loya’s death was “coronary artery insufficiency”. Under a subheading asking for details of wounds and injuries on the body, the report said, “No evidence of any bodily injuries”, and under another point asking for specific details of the condition of the head, the entry read: “No injuries”.
The employees’ claims seem to be consistent with an earlier opinion by forensic expert RK Sharma published in The Caravan in February that ruled out a heart attack and said there were signs of trauma or even poisoning. In March, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation filed an application in the Supreme Court citing this opinion, and said the Maharashtra government “appears to have withheld” from the court certain documents that could “demolish” the official version that Judge BH Loya died of a heart attack.
According to The Caravan report, 10 of the 14 employees it spoke to said they were certain that Vyawahare was interfering with post-mortem reports. Around a year after Loya’s autopsy, towards the end of 2015, Vyawahare was transferred out of the college following protests by hundreds of medical students and resident doctors, after a post graduate student attempted suicide and blamed him, and a woman student filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
When The Caravan asked Vyawahare to respond to the claims of the employees it spoke to, he simply said, “I didn’t do the post-mortem only.”
In a previous report published on March 29, The Caravan spoke to 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan, the government-run VIP guest house where Loya was said to have stayed in in Nagpur before his death. All of them told the magazine that they had no information about any guest falling ill and being taken to a hospital early in the morning – claims that contradict the statements made by the four judges who said they were with Loya in the hours before he died.