THE SUPREME Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to hand over all documents related to the death of Special CBI Judge B H Loya in Nagpur three years ago to two petitioners seeking a probe into the matter.
“It is a matter where they (the petitioners) should see everything,” said Justice Arun Mishra before the bench, also comprising Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar, adjourned the hearing.
However, the order that was officially issued late in the evening said: “Let the documents be placed on record within seven days and if it is considered appropriate, copies be furnished to the petitioners. Put up before the appropriate bench.”
This prompted speculation that the Loya case may be allocated to another bench by the Chief Justice of India — an issue that was raised by the four senior judges at their press conference Saturday.
Earlier, appearing for the Maharashtra government, Senior Advocate Harish Salve produced the documents related to Loya’s death in a sealed cover, while expressing doubts over whether some of them were confidential in nature.
Following directions from the court, Salve said he would supply a copy to the petitioners after marking the documents that should not be made public.
On January 12, hearing petitions filed by Maharashtra-based journalist B R Lone and activist Tehseen Poonavala, the Supreme Court had termed the matter as “serious” and asked Maharashtra to produce the documents, including the post-mortem report.
Judge Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, died on December 1, 2014, in Nagpur where he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Tuesday, Nagpur Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe said their records show the judge died due to a heart ailment.
“From our side, there is nothing new to add to the answer to the question regarding the cause of death of special CBI judge Loya. In the record of 2014 available with us, the cause of death was stated to be coronary artery insufficiency. We haven’t conducted any fresh probe into the matter,” said Bodkhe.
The JCP had earlier been quoted as saying on a news channel that the police probe into Loya’s death had been conducted under Section 174 of CrPC, referring to suicides and deaths “under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence”.
“I was asked a question about the cause of death, to which I said that the Sadar police station had in 2014 conducted an inquiry that had found the cause of death to be coronary artery insufficiency. Somebody then asked how I could comment on the matter when the case is sub-judice. I said I am only referring to an old piece of information from the 2014 file. When asked if a fresh inquiry would be conducted, I said who am I to decide that,” he said.
The issue came under the spotlight last November following a report in Caravan magazine in which Loya’s sister and other close relatives raised questions over the circumstances surrounding the death.
A subsequent investigation by The Indian Express revealed that crucial claims in the report — “the ECG was not working”, someone unknown to the family picked up the body, the judge was virtually abandoned after his death and that his body was sent to his village home unescorted — were not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records.
Besides, two judges of the Bombay High Court, Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Sunil Shukre, who went to the hospital where Loya was admitted and made arrangements for the transport of the body, told The Indian Express that there was nothing about the circumstances of the death to raise any suspicion.
In his plea, Poonawala said the circumstances surrounding the death were “questionable, mysterious and contradicting”. Lone’s plea, too, demanded a fair probe into the incident.
A PIL seeking a probe into the judge’s death was also filed before the Bombay High Court on January 8 by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association.