Further investigation by The Caravan into the events that transpired on the final night of the judge BH Loya’s life has raised troubling concerns regarding statements submitted by four judges who claim to have been with him in the hours before he died, on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December 2014. The Caravan spoke to 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan, the government-run VIP guest house where Loya is said to have stayed in Nagpur. None of these employees—all of whom save one were working at Ravi Bhawan in November 2014—had any inkling at that time that a guest staying at the guest house had, as the judges stated, become grievously unwell, been taken to a hospital early in the morning, and subsequently died. Most of these employees learnt of Loya’s death three years later, in November 2017, when The Caravan’s story regarding the suspicious circumstances surrounding Loya’s death broke, leading to news coverage of his demise and, consequently, an inquiry by Maharashtra’s State Intelligence Department, or SID.
Soon after The Caravan broke the story of Loya’s mysterious death, the four judges—Shrikant Kulkarni and SM Modak, who said they travelled to Nagpur from Mumbai with Loya, and VC Barde and Roopesh Rathi, who were serving in Nagpur at the time—submitted signed statements to Sanjay Barve, the commissioner of Maharashtra’s SID. These statements formed the primary lines of defence for the state of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court, where it argued that Loya’s death was natural. Mukul Rohatgi, the former attorney general of India, who is representing the state of Maharashtra in the matter, declared that he was “saddened and shocked” that the counsel for petitioners seeking an independent inquiry into Loya’s death had raised doubts about these testimonies. Dushyant Dave, a lawyer for one of the petitioners, insisted before the court that the four judges were mere witnesses in this matter, and should file their submissions as affidavits and be cross-examined, under Supreme Court Rules.
According to the statements the judges submitted to the SID, Loya first started complaining of chest pain to Modak and Kulkarni, both of whom said they were with him at Ravi Bhawan, at around 4 am. Barde stated that Kulkarni called him, informed him of Loya’s condition, and asked him to come to Ravi Bhawan along with Rathi. According to Rathi, Barde arrived in his car to pick Rathi up from his quarters. Both judges then went to Ravi Bhawan in Barde’s car. When they arrived, “Judge Loya was attending natures call,” Rathi wrote in his statement. “There after he came down and told that he is having heartburn & having ache in his heart and requested for help.” Subsequently, the judges stated, they accompanied Loya to Dande Hospital, and then further to Meditrina hospital, where he is said to have been declared dead.
I tracked down 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan who managed the day-to-day affairs of the guest house—everything from administration, reception and room service, to engineering work and miscellaneous other duties—to their current locations in different parts of Maharashtra. I met 15 of the 17 individually the first time I interviewed them. I went back several times to many of them with additional queries. To protect the identities of these individuals, The Caravan has chosen to identify them by their place in the order in which the first meetings with them took place. These employees’ accounts call into question numerous details described in the judges’ statements.