On 29 November, an email appeared in The Caravan’s inbox from a sender identifying himself as a friend of Anuj Loya, the son of the late judge BH Loya. In a conversation on 30 November, he informed us that Anuj had shown him a copy of a letter dated February 2015, which Anuj had also left with Judge Loya’s sister. The Caravan had obtained and published the letter in an earlier story regarding the circumstances surrounding the judge’s death. The letter had stated, “If anything happens to me or my family members, chief justice, Mohit Shah and others involved in the conspiracy will be responsible.” Worried that Anuj was under pressure now, the friend who reached out to The Caravan said that Anuj had told him “that if any harm came to his family,” he was to tell the “media or someone who could do something about it” about the letter.
We also received another email on 29 November, from a person identifying himself as Anuj Loya. In an attached letter, he said, “I, myself, my sister and my mother did not have any doubts about the fact that my father had passed away due to a heart attack and no other reason.” We responded to him to confirm his identity, but have not yet received a reply, and so have not been able to confirm that the letter was sent by him and reflected his sentiments. A Times of India story published a little over a week after The Caravan’s series of stories on Judge Loya’s death (following which many members of Loya’s family have been untraceable) reported that Anuj had met the Bombay High Court chief justice Manjula Chellur to “convey that the family had no complaints or suspicion about the circumstances of his father’s death.” The story did not seek to explain how Anuj had contacted the chief justice, and who had facilitated the meeting.
We compared the signatures on the 2015 letter and the recent letter to us. At first, we were puzzled to find that they differed. A closer look revealed that they matched, but that the signature on the new letter was tilted by about 90 degrees. From a photograph of Anuj’s, in which he is seen playing pool, we confirmed that his striking hand is his right—that is, he is likely right-handed. This suggested that he was not sitting directly in front of the new letter when he signed it—rather that he signed it from a peculiar angle, with his arm nearly perpendicular to the page.
According to the friend, he was in touch with Anuj as recently as 4 November, “when he told me that his phone broke. So he asked me to give him my number.” Up until this last conversation, Anuj had not indicated to his friend that the sentiments he expressed in his 2015 letter had changed, or that he was withdrawing the standing instruction with regard to it, to be followed “in case something happened.” It is difficult to reconcile this fact with the letter to The Caravan just over three weeks later, in which Anuj wrote, “I could feel the sincerity of condolences given to my family by my father’s friends and colleagues and other Hon’ble Judges of Bombay High Court.”
The friend’s email indicated that he had been unsuccessfully trying to reach Anuj and other members of his family. “I am a very close friend of Anuj Loya,” he wrote. “I have tried contacting him but I am not able to reach any of his family members’ numbers.” (We have decided to redact the friend’s name out of concern for his privacy and security.) The email continued, “I just need to know if my friend is safe and any information regarding this will be appreciated.”
The friend later said in a phone conversation with us that he and Anuj had “been friends for like, five, six years now. And I used to go to his place very often for like projects and all. I knew his father also. So I know that he was a very honest man and he would not like, take a bribe or anything.” He added that Loya “was a good man. I remember once we had a project which went into late night or something. I didn’t even ask him and he just came and dropped me in the middle of the night.”
The friend said that Anuj had told him about Mohit Shah’s visit to the family’s home after Loya’s death. In his 2015 letter, Anuj wrote that he had told Shah “everything related to Dad’s death and have also asked him to set up an enquiry commission.” The friend said that when Anuj told him about Shah’s visit, he appeared to be “pretty scared.” He recounted Anuj telling him that Shah said “there is nothing to enquire about. It was a result of heart attack.”
But, the friend added, “Anuj was not convinced at all.” He said as much to the friend, and insisted that “he is going to pursue it later on.” The incident affected Anuj so deeply that “he was studying engineering with me, and then he quit, and then he wanted to do what his father did. So he started doing law.”
In the letter to us dated 29 November, the person claiming to be Anuj wrote, “I knew that my father had passed away due to heart attack and no other reason.” He also wrote, “I knew that my father was taken to the hospital in his colleague’s car.”
This person also said he was “aware about the recent controversy created in view of the two articles published by you about the sad death of my father.” He wrote, “At the time of my father’s death and during period of emotional stress some people did create confusion in my mind about the cause of death of my father. However, after that when I started getting true facts, I realised that my father had actually died due to a heart attack and could not be saved even though all efforts were made by his colleagues who remained with him throughout that fateful period.” (Images of both Anuj’s 2015 letter and the latest letter are appended to this article.)
As late as a month ago, Anuj hadn’t told his friend, whom he trusted with the letter, that his apprehension about his father’s death had disappeared and that the friend should not inform the media about the letter.
It is difficult to reconcile these two messages, or imagine what could have spurred such a dramatic shift in Anuj’s view in less than a month.
Anuj’s friend said he had read the Times of India report “saying that there was no problem with his father’s death and he didn’t want to pursue it further.” He continued, “So I don’t know what’s going on. Has he like been pressurised or something?” The friend had “been trying to reach him from Saturday. His phone number was not reachable from Saturday.” He added, “What I am understanding is that even his grandfather is not reachable and the aunt that was there in the video, even she is not reachable.”