Death of Judge Loya: Were pages concerning Loya’s stay removed from Ravi Bhawan’s bookings register?

13 October 2018

New documents obtained during Right to Information proceedings reveal that the bookings register of Ravi Bhawan—the government guest house in Nagpur where the judge BH Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death—contains no entries for the dates surrounding his stay. Copies of the register, which were submitted by the Nagpur Public Works Department of the Maharashtra government, contain no record of any suite booked for Loya or several other judges, who are said to have stayed at Ravi Bhawan in late November 2014. The judges are believed to have travelled to Nagpur to attend the wedding of a colleague’s family member. Between 28 November and 6 December 2014, the Ravi Bhawan bookings register records only one entry, on 30 November. It does not contain any entry for any judge. For the last six days of this period, the pages are missing altogether.

In June this year, The Caravan reported that according to documents released in response to RTI applications, Maharashtra’s law and judiciary department had sent a letter to the Nagpur Public Works Department Division Number 1 on 27 November 2014, requesting that a suite be reserved in Ravi Bhawan for Loya and another judge, Vinay Joshi. The letter stated that the judges “will be staying from early morning of 30.11.2014 till 7 am of 1.12.2014 for government work.” Additional records made available in response to an RTI application also revealed that earlier that month, another letter issued to the Nagpur PWD sought to reserve eight suites on behalf of seven judges, who were travelling to Nagpur “for some urgent work … from 29.11.2014 (7.00 a.m.) to 01.12.2014.” But the bookings register at Ravi Bhawan does not contain an entry for any of these nine names—neither the seven judges, nor Loya and Joshi.

Six current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan told us that all reservations submitted in writing are recorded in the bookings register. The current and former employees managed the day-to-day affairs of the guest house and have been involved with the booking of rooms. Four of them said that even an oral booking over the phone would be recorded with a corresponding entry in the bookings register. While giving examples of the nature of entries that would be recorded in the register, one employee told us that the “correct protocol” was for reservations to come via the “PWD Division Number 1 of Nagpur.” The employee added, “A notification would then be written in the bookings register.” Both letters reserving the suites in Ravi Bhawan for the judges were addressed to the Nagpur PWD Division Number 1, under the local Public Works Department.

The absence of entries in the register on the dates surrounding Loya’s stay at the guest house is particularly suspicious in view of the chain of letters issued by Maharashtra government bodies, including the law department, reserving nine suites on behalf of nine different judges during this period.

Nikita Saxena is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Arshu John is an assistant web editor at The Caravan. He was previously an advocate practicing criminal law in Delhi.

Keywords: Maharashtra BH Loya Nagpur Loya Ravi Bhawan Public Works Department SM Modak Shrikant Kulkarni
COMMENT