In keeping with its pattern of furnishing testimonies that amend, distort or completely roll back on the statements formerly given to journalists, the state of Maharashtra continued its arguments on Friday in the Supreme Court to oppose an investigation into the suspicious death of Judge BH Loya. The state argued that the statements of RK Sharma, one of India’s foremost medico-legal experts—who had told me in an earlier interview that the medical documents pertaining to Loya’s death show no sign of a heart-attack and hint towards poisoning—could not be trusted. The state submitted that Sharma only had a casual conversation with a journalist and had been quoted out of context. As was the case with earlier testimonies, the state’s arguments about Sharma, too, are easily disprovable with the facts that are available.
On 11 February, The Caravan published an article quoting Sharma, who was the former head of the Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, and the president of the Indian Association of Medico-Legal Experts for 22 years. “There is no evidence of myocardial infarction in the histopathology report,” Sharma told me. “The findings in this report have no suggestion of a heart attack.” Based on the article, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-profit legal collective, had filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court, seeking to make submissions about medical experts ruling out the possibility that the late judge died of a heart attack. A three-judge bench led by the chief justice of India, which is hearing the batch of petitions asking for an investigation into Loya’s death, heard the CPIL’s application on 8 and 9 March.
Before the Supreme Court, the crux of the state of Maharashtra’s defence so far have been testimonies obtained from the family of Judge Loya, and four judges who claim to have been accompanying Loya in his last hours. On the second date of the hearing, Mukul Rohatgi, the former attorney general who is representing the state of Maharashtra, argued: “If these four judges have to be believed, this case has to come to an end today.” The sanctity of these testimonies has been the running thread in all of Rohatgi’s submissions—they form the very basis of the state’s arguments. On 9 March, to negate the medical opinion furnished by Sharma, Rohatgi produced a report by HM Pathak, a Mumbai-based professor of forensic medicine and toxicology, which countered everything that Sharma had told me.
I had met Sharma at his office in Nehru Place on 10 February. We had earlier spoken over the phone, and Sharma was willing to go through the medical documents and give me his expert opinion, after almost every doctor in the Forensic Department at AIIMS had refused to speak to me about the case. After going through the reports, Sharma told me, “Dura is congested according to the post-mortem report.” He added, “Dura mater is the outermost layer that surrounds our brain. It is damaged in cases of trauma, which indicates some kind of an assault on the brain. A physical assault.” An audio recording of the whole conversation is with The Caravan, and an excerpt of the recording’s transcript has been published with this story.
Before the publication of the article, I had sent every single quote attributed to Sharma to him on WhatsApp. These included his statements that there is no sign of a heart attack, and that there is a possibility of poisoning and a physical assault on the brain. To all of this, he replied by saying, “It is all okay.” After that, I had another conversation with him to corroborate some details. After the publication of the story, I had sent Sharma the link and spoken to him on the phone.