Possible manipulation of records and inconsistent new testimonies raise further questions

21 December 2017
The occupancy register at Ravi Bhavan shows three blank entries and two instances of inconsistent dating immediately preceding the entries that relate directly to Loya’s stay there on his final night. (Detailed images are below.) The register shows no blank entries besides these across multiple other pages.

Family members of the judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya—who presided over the trial in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, where the main person accused was the Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah—have raised numerous questions over his sudden death, purportedly of a heart attack, while on a visit to Nagpur in 2014. Since The Caravan first published thesequestions last month, our investigations have uncovered signs of possible manipulation in every record made public so far with information on the circumstances of Loya’s final night. These include the occupancy register at the government guest house where he stayed, and an ECG chart purportedly generated at Dande Hospital, the first medical facility he was reportedly taken to after feeling unwell.

Several sources have come forward after the Loya story was broken by The Caravan to offer accounts of the judge’s final hours that dispute the testimony of Loya’s family members. Two sitting judges of the Bombay High Court have chosen to speak to select media outlets—and, in doing so, made an exceptional departure from the established code of judicial conduct—in order to summarily dismiss any possibility of foul play, even as a police investigation into Loya’s death is ongoing. These judges, by their own telling, did not themselves witness Loya’s deterioration on his final night until after he was at the Meditrina Institute of Medical Sciences, where he was taken after Dande Hospital and eventually declared dead.

The new accounts of the circumstances of Loya’s death have appeared in follow-up reports from Nagpur by several media outlets, including the Indian Express and NDTV. Amit Shah himself, when asked of the Loya case, has recommended the Indian Express’s coverage for a “more neutral” viewpoint. None of these accounts stand up to close scrutiny, and between them they disagree on multiple details. We were given new accounts and details of Loya’s final night on our own follow-up reporting from Nagpur too, and these, again, do not square with the accounts and details offered to other media outlets.

Following Loya’s death, a Zero-FIR was registered at Sitabuldi police station, which has jurisdiction over Meditrina. The case was then transferred to Sadar police station, which has jurisdiction over the government guest house. The police file on the case remains open, and police in Nagpur told us it contains an Accidental Death Report. As of early this December, police investigators had not recorded statements from anyone who was with Loya in the lead-up to his death, or from any of Loya’s immediate family members—despite it being standard police procedure to collect such statements as part of inquest proceedings. There is no established chain of custody for Loya’s mobile phone, which was delivered to his family through unofficial channels three days after his death, with records erased.

POSSIBLE MANIPULATION OF OCCUPANCY REGISTER AT GOVERNMENT GUEST HOUSE

Anosh Malekar is an award-winning journalist based in Pune, who prefers traveling in rural India and writing about people living on the margins of society. He has worked with publications such as The WEEK and the Indian Express.

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan. 

Keywords: judiciary judges Sohrabuddin BH Loya judge Nagpur
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