More Questions Raised Over Loya's Death as SC Continues Hearing

Senior counsel Indira Jaising pointed to the gaps in the procedures followed by the administrative machinery in the hours and days after Loya’s death. 

The late Judge B.H. Loya (left); the Supreme Court of India; senior advocate Indira Jaising. Credit: Caravan/Shome Basu/PTI

New Delhi: When the Supreme Court bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra resumed its hearing on Friday of the pleas seeking an independent probe into the death of judge B. H. Loya, senior advocate Indira Jaising raised 15 inconsistencies or questions surrounding Loya’s death. She was appearing for the former chief of the navy, Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd.), an intervener in the case,.

Jaising pointed out that it should have been obligatory on the part of the police to notify the executive magistrate when the Sitabardi police station in Nagpur, where Loya died, generated an accident report at 8:30 AM on December 1, 2014, soon after his death. This report, she said, was a result of the information given by Dr Prashant Rathi, under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).  As a consequence, the executive magistrate was deprived of an opportunity to visit the hospital, if he so deemed fit, to make his observations.

A death investigation report under the same provision was also generated between 10 and 10:30 AM that day, addressed to the Government Medical College, Nagpur. This document states that the death “must be heart attack.  However, to ascertain the actual cause of death, we are sending the dead body with PC Pankaj B. No.6238 for Post-Mortem along with necessary papers.”  Jaising’s written submissions to the court reveal that there is no mention about what were the papers accompanying the death investigation report. The letter states that “to ascertain the actual reason/cause of death, the dead body is sent to the Medical Officer (LMJ Saheb, Medical Hospital)…”

Jaising again questioned why the executive magistrate was not informed of the death having occurred as required by Section 174 CrPC.

Thereafter, from 10:55 AM to 11.55 AM, a post-mortem was conducted on Loya’s dead body, where the cause of death was recorded as “coronary artery insufficiency”.  Jaising raised several discrepancies in the post-mortem report of Judge Loya and other questions:

  1. Page 25 of the post-mortem report has been altered by correcting the name on January 10, 2015;

  2. The same page shows the date of death as December 7, 2014, with no explanation;

  3. The same page shows overwriting on the date of death from November 30, 2014 to December 1, 2014.

  4. At page 33, of the documents submitted by the Maharashtra Government, it is mentioned that dead body of “BrijmohanHarkishanLoya” was handed over from P.S. Sitabardi to Dr Prashant Rathi. The real name of Loya is Brijgopal Harkishan Loya.

  5. Page 33 also records that “all his belongings for performing last rites” was handed over to Dr Rathi.  However, Jaising added that the panchnama of the personal belongings of Loya were not produced.

  6. Loya’s sister Anuradha Biyani has alleged that Loya’s mobile phone was returned a few days later with all the messages deleted, as reported by the Caravan.

  7. The accidental death case (AD00/14) recorded under Section 174 CrPC was transferred to P.S. Sadar at 4 PM on December 1, 2014.  The second accident report (AD 44/14) is alleged to have been made at 4 PM at Sadar Police Station once again under Section 174 CrPC. On the same day. “At this stage also, the Executive Magistrate is not informed”, Jaising notes in her written submissions.

  8. The case diary of P.S.Sitabardi or of Sadar Police Station has not been produced which  would have indicated the time at which the police received the first call about Loya’s death; the time of generating the accident report at Sitabardi Police Station, which is stated to 8:30 AM on December 1, 2014; the time of the Death Inspection Report; and the time of transfer from Sitabardi Police station to Sadar Police Station, Nagpur.  

  9. The case diary could have also thrown light on the medical records, if any, which were available with the police at the time of the First Accident Report at 8:30 AM at the time of the Death Investigation Report at 10:30 AM and the medical records if any, sent to the Government Medical College, Nagpur, for the post-mortem, Jaising has observed in her written submissions. The case diary could have also disclosed the steps taken by the police to inform the Executive Magistrate under Section 174 Cr.P.C., if any.

  10. Jaising’s written submissions also question why no steps were taken by the police to collect the additional documents from the two hospitals, Dande Hospital and Meditrina Hospital to ascertain the cause of death. “It appears that no enquiry has been done by the police or by anyone else at the inquest under Section 174 CrPC, such as, for example, verifying the cause of death, looking at the medical records, summoning medical records of both hospitals, ascertaining the medical history of the deceased with the family to check if there was any prior history of a coronary problem causing “coronary artery insufficiency” or whether the cause of the heart attack was due to some other reason”, Jaising observed in her written submissions. Jaising told the bench that Loya had no history of cardiac disease.  

  11. Jaising also questions why intimation of the post-mortem was not conveyed to the “relatives” of Judge Loya, as required under Section 176 CrPC. The term “relative” has been defined under this provision to mean parents, children, brothers, sisters and spouse. Dr Prashant Rathi, who is not a “relative” within the meaning of this provision, received the intimation as well as his dead body, on behalf of the family, Jaising has revealed.

  12. A document dated February 2, 2016 has been produced on record as “Accidental Death Summary”, as the intimation by the police to the executive magistrate. There is no explanation as to why this document was dated February 2, 2016, without intimating the executive magistrate on December 1, 2014, and what steps were taken in the interim, Jaising has added. “Therefore, the said letter/Accidental Death Summary dated 02.02.16 is meaningless.  It reinforces the submission that no inquest was conducted under Section 174 of the CrPC.”, she has concluded.

  13. The version of Dr Pinak Dande as also the medical records of Dande Hospital and Meditrina Hospital that an ECG was “done” on Judge Loya, has been belied by Judge R. R. Rathi’s statement to the state intelligence officer, who said that the nodes of the ECG machine were broken.  

  14. Judge Loya’ s son, Anuj Loya sent a letter dated February 18, 2015 to the-then Chief Justice of Maharashtra High Court calling for an inquiry.  Anuj Loya in his letter requested the-then Chief Justice of the High Court to set up an inquiry commission to probe his father’s death. “It is submitted that the statements of family members produced by the State of Maharashtra have been taken under duress and do not inspire confidence.”

  15. Judge J.T. Utpat, presiding over the special CBI court in Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter trial was transferred on June 25, 2014, with immediate effect, in violation of the order of the Supreme Court dated September 27, 2012.  Therefore, the records of the administrative committee of the high court must be produced, Jaising has urged.

Jaising’s contention was that there should have been a First Information Report, if there is a “reason to suspect”.  You either close the case, or register the FIR, she said, asking why both the report under Section 174 CrPC and the FIR are missing. “Neither has been done,” she added.

Rohatgi-Jaising spat

When counsel for the Maharashtra state government, Mukul Rohatgi, told the bench that Jaising’s reference to the accident reportedly suffered by the judges’ car (which followed the ambulance carrying Loya’s body) was irrelevant, she emphasised that she only sought to corroborate it with other independent witnesses. The two judicial officers, who were travelling in their own car, behind the ambulance, were late by a few minutes because their car suffered a breakdown and it took time to repair it. Loya’s sister had reportedly told that the ambulance carrying Loya’s body arrived with no judicial officers.

“I am not required to prove beyond reasonable doubt.  The cause of the death is required to be investigated,” she told the bench.

Rohatgi asked how Admiral Ramdas was concerned about Loya’s death, and reminded the bench that the PIL petitioners should have no personal motives. Rohatgi also questioned Jaising’s narration of events, saying as intervener, she ought to have confined herself to questions of law. Admiral Ramdas has explained his concern in the matter here.

Irked by Rohatgi’s repeated interruption, Jaising told him: “Yes, I have a motive.  Are you satisfied?”.

Rohatgi then said the option before the bench was either to declare the statements of the four judges pointing to Loya’s death as natural as false, or close the case. He also described the media reports on the case as yellow journalism.  “You are free to call it yellow, blue or red, whatever,” Jaising retorted.

Counsel for All India Lawyers Union, P.S. Surendranath, not only sought an independent probe, but urged action against petitioner Bandhuraj Sambhaji Lone, who he alleged, abused the process of PIL by not insisting on his initial prayer for a probe.

Counsel for the Youth Bar Association of India, Kuldeep Rai submitted that the deaths of lawyer-activist,  Shrikant Khandalkar and Prakash Thombre, a retired judge, who were friends of Judge Loya, should also be probed.

Arguments will continue on Monday, February 12, when the Maharashtra government is expected to make its submissions.

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