Published On : Wed, Jun 13th, 2018

RTI Raises Questions About Maharashtra’s Submissions to the SC

New Delhi: As part of its investigation into the death of judge Judge B.H. Loya, The Caravan’s latest report has revealed that the Maharashtra government concealed documents which are crucial to the case from the Supreme Court. The documents, that have been obtained via the Right to Information Act, offer a conflicting view of what the state of Maharashtra told the Supreme Court in relation to the sequence of events and the reasons that led judge Loya to Nagpur in December 2014 where he died under suspicious circumstances.

According to the report, on November 27, an official letter (EST 1114/Q/2014) from the Nagpur office of the department of law and judiciary informed a public works division about reserving a ‘VIP Air-Conditioned Suit in Ravi Bhavan’. Ravi Bhavan is a government-operated guest house in Nagpur where Loya is supposed to have been staying at the time of his death.

The letter said, “From Mumbai Hon’ble Shri B.J. Loya [sic] and Hon’ble Shri Vinay Joshi, these both District and Session Judges Mumbai, will be staying from early morning of 30.11.2014 till 7 am of 1.12.2014 for government work. It is requested that for their stay one V.I.P. Air Conditioned Suit with two cots be reserved.”

Dated November 27, the letter came only three days prior to the intervening night of November 30 and December 1, when Loya died.

As per records obtained by The Caravan, the names of both Joshi and Loya are missing from the occupancy register of Ravi Bhavan. While the register has entries for three rooms, it does not contain any information about who occupied them and when. “The fields for noting those particulars have been struck through. Such blank entries are strange, since an entry should only be created in the register when a room becomes occupied,” the report read.

An earlier report of The Caravan had found that the pages of the occupancy register had been tampered with. In December 2017, Milind Pakhale, a Maharashtra-based lawyer, lodged a police complaint alleging that entries that had been made by him in the occupancy register on December 30, 2014, had been manipulated.

The letter of November 27 also mentions that Loya was travelling to Nagpur ‘for government work’. This directly contradicts what the State Intelligence Department has held as the reasons for Loya’s trip to Nagpur: ‘Judge Loya was in Nagpur to attend the wedding in the family of a colleague on 30 November 2014.’

“The SID report made no mention at all of an official trip, or of Vinay Joshi – who is currently the principal district judge of the Thane district court,” The Caravan’s report read.

The letter that has now emerged makes clear that a separate room had been arranged for judge Loya and Vinay Joshi. Judge Shriram Modak – who according to the SID was with Loya in Nagpur – in his written statement to the SID stated that he, Loya and Kulkarni (the third judge with them) stayed together in one room at Ravi Bhavan.

“It remains unclear why they would do so if separate accommodation had already been arranged for Loya,” the report read.

The latest findings raise questions about the Maharashtra government’s submission before the Supreme court, which claim that Loya travelled to Nagpur to attend the wedding of his colleague Swapna Joshi’s daughter. The letter obtained through the RTI has revealed a conflicting turn of events which suggest that Loya, in fact, travelled ‘for work’.

Additional records have also revealed that the purpose of travel for Loya and Vinay Joshi was distinct from that of Loya’s other colleagues who travelled at the same time. The letter, on behalf of Swapna Joshi, requesting eight rooms be made available at Ravi Bhavan between November 29 and December was dated November 19. While the letter seeking accommodation for Loya was issued eight days later on November 27, implying that he was initially not a part of the group that was meant to go to Nagpur for the wedding.

“Someone with the necessary powers in the Maharashtra government apparently decided that Loya was to travel to Nagpur and stay at Ravi Bhawan on the stated dates. Who that was is unclear. Instructions regarding an official visit by a judge in Loya’s position, at the head of a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai, could only have come from officials in the Maharashtra capital,”