Judge BH Loya’s death cannot be dismissed lightly
While a SC Bench continues to hear petitions on judge Loya’s sudden death, Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the story in <i>The Caravan</i> spoke on why they believe a probe is necessary
I was visiting Pune in connection with a story some time in 2016. A friend of mine came to the hotel I was staying in and introduced me to Nupur Biyani, who was the niece of late B.H. Loya. She confided in me whatever she had heard being said in the family since December, 2014 when the judge died and asked if I would report it.
I told her that I could not just depend on her second-hand story. I asked her to speak to her mother, judge Loya’s sister, and find out if she would be willing to give me an interview on record. I ended up speaking to Nupur’s mother and grandfather, father of the late judge, in November, 2016. It was an audio interview that lasted for several hours.
A curious detail I remember is that barely five minutes after I arrived at Loya senior’s house in Latur, he received a call to enquire about the guest he was entertaining and the guest’s background. With great presence of mind, he told the caller that the guest was someone he knew and that he had lost his way and had come to spend some time and get the right directions.
On my return I spoke to lawyers in Mumbai who were privy to the case judge Loya was hearing. I visited Nagpur and tried to piece together the sequence of events. I then filed the report to the magazine I was working for (The Week) in February, 2017. The editors sought various clarifications and I checked and re-checked the details and met people or spoke to them more than once while updating the report.
But in October 2017, I was finally informed that the story would not be published. I resigned in November and began exploring a platform for the story. I owed it to the people who had confided in me, trusted me and parted with information. Friends egged me on and said that the least I could do was to restore faith of the people in the media.
That is when I decided to have a video interview with judge Loya’s father. He was not in Latur. He had gone to stay with another of his daughters in Aurangabad. Both of them readily agreed to speak on camera. By that time I had already sent the report to The Caravan and the editors there had been seeking clarifications, consulting lawyers and checking facts. The video interview also turned out to be a long one. It was November 17, 2017. The Caravan broke the story on November 20.
These details are important because the timing of the report’s publication was criticised and it was said that it had been timed to coincide with the Gujarat election. But the timeline will show that it took me a year of investigation before the story was finally published and it had nothing to do with any election.
Barely 12 days after my video interview, on November 29, a few judges broke their silence and briefed The Indian Express and NDTV to claim that judge Loya had died a natural death and that they had a letter from judge Loya’s son to this effect.
I would of course be curious to learn what changed in those 12 days and how. How did doubts that were strong till November 17, 2017, were allayed by November 29? How did it happen and who helped in dispelling those doubts?
Anuj Loya’s press conference at the office of a law firm and his plea that the family should be left alone, raises more questions than it answers. As his paternal uncle told The Caravan, the boy barely out of his teens is under considerable pres¬sure and I do not blame him at all.
But I would like to point out that the two judges who had accompanied judge Loya to Nagpur on November 29, have maintained complete silence. They had met the family a month and a half after the judge’s allegedly ‘natural death’ and confided that they had taken the judge in an autorickshaw to the Dande Hospital.
The narrative then changed at some point and it was claimed that an official of the Nagpur bench of the high court had driven judge Loya in his own car to the hospital.
It is also revealing that Ishwar Baheti, who returned judge Loya’s mobile phone to the family after deleting all the messages, too has not spoken yet.
I am grateful to The Caravan and its editors for placing their trust in me and senior journalists like Kumar Ketkar and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who guided me when I needed guidance the most. As a journalist I will always trust that my job is to tell the truth and shame the devils.
(Based on the first public talk he gave at the Indian Social Institute under the aegis of All India People’s Forum)