On 11 September, the Supreme Court collegium passed a resolution recommending the names of four judges—SM Modak, VG Joshi, NJ Jamadar, and RG Avachat—for elevation to the Bombay High Court. Two of these judges, Modak and Joshi, were involved in different capacities with the circumstances surrounding the death of the judge BH Loya.
Modak has claimed he was staying with Loya at Ravi Bhawan—the government guest house in Nagpur where Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death, on the intervening night between 30 November and 1 December 2014. The official account of Loya’s death stated that the late judge was in Nagpur to attend the wedding of a fellow judge’s son. But according to a government letter issued on 27 November 2014 by the Nagpur office of Maharashtra’s law department, Joshi and Loya were to stay at Ravi Bhawan “from early morning of 30.11.2014 till 7 am of 1.12.2014 for government work.”
The collegium’s decision follows the recommendation of Manjula Chellur, a former chief justice of the Bombay High Court who proposed the names of Modak, Joshi and four other judges, in consultation with her two senior-most colleagues, for elevation on 28 November 2017. Interestingly, the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department had submitted a “discreet inquiry” report to the state government, which is also dated 28 November, concluding that Loya’s death was natural. Among other documents, the SID relied on a statement submitted by Modak to arrive at that conclusion.
A week before the SID submitted its report, The Caravan broke two stories concerning the suspicions raised by Loya’s family about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, and their allegation that Mohit Shah, another former chief justice of the Bombay High Court, had offered Loya Rs 100 crore for a favourable judgment in the Sohrabuddin case. Loya had been presiding over the case, in which the BJP national president Amit Shah was among the main accused, since June 2014. Modak submitted his statement to the SID on 24 November 2017—four days before both the date of the report, and Chellur’s recommendation.
On 17 September, six days after the collegium passed its resolution, RP Joshi, a Nagpur-based advocate, submitted a written complaint to Ranjan Gogoi, who will be sworn in as the next chief justice of India on 3 October, requesting the judge to reconsider the decision. The advocate told us that he had filed multiple complaints against Modak earlier that month and in July as well—to Dipak Misra, to the Bombay High Court, and to the union law minister—but did not receive a response to any of them.