Death of Judge Loya: Government letter concealed from the Supreme Court detailed purpose of Loya’s visit to Nagpur and arrangements for his stay

Building Number 1 of Ravi Bhawan, the government guest house where Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death.
Anand for The Caravan
Building Number 1 of Ravi Bhawan, the government guest house where Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death.
Anand for The Caravan

Official documents with new details regarding the purpose of the judge BH Loya’s visit to Nagpur in 2014 and the arrangements made for him have been released in response to Right to Information applications. The documents show that the government of Maharashtra concealed details of enormous importance to the Loya case in its submissions to the Supreme Court. The documents were not included in the report of a “discreet inquiry” carried out by the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department soon after Loya’s family went public with suspicions about his death, in 2017. The report was the basis for the Maharashtra government’s claim, accepted by the Supreme Court, that Loya died a natural death. The documents have been submitted to the Bombay High Court as part of a new Public Interest Litigation demanding official compensation for Loya’s family.

In an official letter—EST 1114/Q/2014—dated 27 November 2014, the Nagpur office of the department of law and judiciary wrote to the Public Works Division Number 1, under the local Public Works Department, about “reserving one V.I.P. Air-Conditioned Suit in Ravi Bhavan”—the government guest house where Loya is said to have been staying at the time of his death, on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December 2014. The letter, as per a translation submitted to the Bombay High Court, stated, “from Mumbai Hon’ble Shri B.J. Loya [sic] and Hon’ble Shri Vinay Joshi, these both District and Session Judges Mumbai, will be staying from early morning of 30.11.2014 till 7 am of 1.12.2014 for government work. It is requested that for their stay one V.I.P. Air Conditioned Suit with two cots be reserved.” A subsequent note from the additional engineer of the division to a booking clerk at Ravi Bhawan ordered him to “Give 1 suit in Building No.1.”

Neither Joshi nor Loya’s names appear in the occupancy register for Ravi Bhawan, which contains a record of all the rooms in use by guests at any given time. The Caravanearlier reported clear signs of manipulation in the register’s pages. For the dates in question, the register has entries for Rooms 2, 3 and 5—all in Building Number 1—without any information on when and by whom they might have been occupied. The fields for noting those particulars have been struck through. Such blank entries are strange, since an entry should only be created in the register when a room becomes occupied.

The letter’s indication that Loya was to travel to Nagpur “for government work” contradicts the State Intelligence Department’s assertion that “Judge Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding in the family of a colleague on 30 November 2014.” The SID report made no mention at all of an official trip, or of Vinay Joshi—who is currently the principal district judge of the Thane district court. It stated that Loya was in Nagpur “along with his colleagues, Judge Kulkarni and Judge Modak, both in the rank of Principal District Judges.” Modak, in a written statement to the SID, said that he, Kulkarni and Loya all stayed together in one room at Ravi Bhawan—where the standard furnishings for every room include only two beds. It remains unclear why they would do so if separate accommodation had already been arranged for Loya.

Vinay Joshi declined to speak on the matter when contacted by The Caravan. “Understand that I am serving in a department, understand that without permission I can’t speak anything,” he said. “The registrar general of Bombay High Court, if he permits, then I will talk to you.”

Nikita Saxena is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Maharashtra Supreme Court death Sohrabuddin BH Loya Nagpur Ravi Bhawan Shrikant Kulkarni SM Modak Vinay Joshi Public Works Department Swapna Joshi Satish Uke Loya