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May 27, 2024
Killing Justice
2. The Family Comes Forward

In This Episode

Investigative reporter Niranjan Takle reveals how he uncovered discrepancies between the official story of Judge Loya’s death and the accounts the judge’s family shared. And how even after extensive reporting, Niranjan had to fight to publish his story.




Ravi Gupta: Almost immediately after meeting Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the Judge Loya story. I took a nearly four hour road trip with him from his home in Nashik to Mumbai. It was the fall of 2023 and as we left the lush hills of Nashik behind, Niranjan began telling me tales of his wild reporting adventures. The more he shared, the more I began to understand that Niranjan goes all in on everything. I got a glimpse of his tunnel vision approach via a real record scratcher of a story that he reported in 2017. It involved the beef trade, a sensitive industry because the majority Hindu population believes cows should be protected and revered. But there is a substantial black market. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] And uh and people get lynched, lynched to death, even if and then–


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Just under the suspicion of eating beef? 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Under suspicion. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan told me he spent six months reporting on the illegal beef trade in disguise. He was undercover with an invented alias. Rafiq Quereshi, Muslim cow trader. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] You have to disguise. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Yeah. And what does that entail? 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Like, what did Rafiq Quereshi look like? 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Rafiq Quereshi had a beard. He used to wear a skullcap. [?]


[clip of Ravi Gupta] And you, you grew your beard out for that? 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Yes, yes, yes.


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Oh yeah wow.


Ravi Gupta: Hearing the story was a little like listening to a method actor. Niranjan told me he lived on the road for half a year away from his family, completely transforming himself for his new role. If this were a Hollywood film. This is where the action montage would start and the music would crescendo. [music break] Niranjan embedded with a black market gang to transport cattle. A little like a modern Indian cowboy. The biggest risks were the Hindu vigilantes who pursued Muslim cattle traders to supposedly bring them to justice. But Niranjan had set out to expose the vigilantes as hypocrites. He wanted to show that they would leave an illegal cattle trader unharmed if he paid a bribe. To do that, Niranjan had to drive right into the vigilantes’ clutches. He told us he was attempting to move cattle across state lines, when he was attacked. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] I got beaten up mercilessly. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Wait, so you got beaten up for– 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Because I am transporting cows. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Yeah. And you’re and you’re a muslim. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Yeah and I’m muslim. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] It sounds like a dangerous project. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] It was. [laughter]


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan told me that he paid the bribe, and the vigilantes let him go, just like he thought they would. To Niranjan, this showed that even though these organizations profess to care about saving cows, they were actually running an extortion network, lining their own pockets and leaving the cows to be slaughtered. It was an exciting story, but I have to admit it gave me pause. Going undercover is frowned upon in the journalism world, especially in the US. In India, undercover journalism is more common, but still controversial. Reputable news organizations generally prefer more traditional open methods when they can yield results. And I’ve since learned that there have been other reporters who have published investigations on the illegal beef trade without going undercover. So it caught my attention when the next thing Niranjan told me was, the story was never published at The Week.


[clip of Niranjan Takle] They filed their story with The Week magazine. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] And they published it? 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] No. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Why not?


Ravi Gupta: He says the magazine killed the story. So I’ve been left wondering what was the problem. Was it that his sources were tough to verify or was it something else? We reached out to the Week and the editor V.S. Jayaschandran, told us that the magazine didn’t publish the cow trader’s story because they were not fully satisfied with it. I tried to get Jayaschandran  to elaborate on what he wasn’t satisfied with, but he refused. He also told us that he was not aware of Niranjan doing undercover work for the story, and that the magazine advises reporters against doing sting operations. Niranjan disputes that. Given all of this, I wonder if Niranjan’s penchant for taking on big enemies and using unconventional methods became a source of contention at the Week. At the time, an entirely separate article Niranjan wrote for the magazine in 2016 had just attracted a criminal defamation case that if proven, could have gotten him and his editor up to two years in prison. Niranjan told me that the case ended up being dismissed, but I can imagine at the time things were pretty tense. I’ve thought about the cow trader story a lot since Niranjan told me about it. I think it explains so much about him and his work. He’s the kind of reporter who’s comfortable getting close to, and perhaps beyond conventional lines in search of the truth. Even if there are consequences. I had and have no doubt he was committed to reporting the best story he could. He was ready to make sacrifices for his work, even if it meant putting himself in danger or being apart from his family. That audacity is what led Judge Loya’s niece to come to him with her suspicions, and that story would become his most risky assignment yet. I’m Ravi Gupta. This is Killing Justice, episode two. The family comes forward. [music break] The day in 2016 that Niranjan first met Nupur Biyani, Judge Loya’s niece, was nearly two years after the judge’s death. We told you in the last episode about their first conversation at the Hotel Royalty in the city of Pune. Niranjan says Nupur approached him because she was familiar with an article he wrote for The Week. That story was critical of one of the Indian right wing’s heroes, V.D. Savarkar. It was also the same article that had landed Niranjan in trouble with his editors at the Week, because it attracted a criminal defamation suit. One of Savarkar’s descendants charged that Niranjan had knowingly published false information that damaged SV.D. Savarkar’s reputation. Niranjan says the case was ultimately dismissed. Niranjan says Nupur told him that story was what made her think she could trust him with something as sensitive as the story of her uncle’s death. If he had been brave enough to publicly criticized one of the ruling party’s idols, maybe he’d be brave enough to pursue the story about her uncle. This meeting was the first domino in a line that would one day make Judge Loya’s name a rallying cry smeared across the headlines and on protest signs. The question of what happened to him would make it all the way to the Supreme Court. But it all started with Loya’s niece telling one reporter that her family had questions about what really happened on the night he died. The recording of Nupur you’re about to hear is not from that first meeting in 2016. That first conversation wasn’t recorded, so Niranjan did a second interview a few weeks later to document it in audio and video. In the video, you see Nupur wearing red and white stripes with her hair pulled back, leaning forward towards a microphone. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] Uh, my name is Nupur Balaprasad Biyani. Judge Loya was my maternal uncle. 


Ravi Gupta: I want to note that we weren’t able to reach Nupur for an interview. In fact, as of this taping, we haven’t been able to speak with anyone from the Loya family for this podcast, despite our attempts to get in touch. So everything included in this episode comes from recorded statements they made to Niranjan when he reported this story in 2017. Nupur started by describing for Niranjan how her uncle talked to her about the Amit Shah case. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] He was sharing with me that it was a very big case and he has that stress. 


Ravi Gupta: He had stress Nupur said. The big case was the one I talked about in our last episode. Amit Shah, who is Gujarat’s home Minister at the time, was charged in 2010 for conspiring to kill a gangster, the gangsters wife, and a witness. Judge Loya was in charge of deciding Amit Shah’s fate. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] And he was under pressure. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] Yeah, he was under pressure. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur told Niranjan that her uncle shared he was being pressured to rule in favor of Shah, but her uncle told her he would review the matter just like any other, with a fair mind. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] I can give a result in the two months after handling it. I will have to ensure that enough proofs I have. I will have to study that and then I’ll give the result, whatever it may be. 


Ravi Gupta: She said her uncle told her he would make a thorough review of the evidence and give the appropriate judgment. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Who were those people? 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan asks. Who are the people pressuring Judge Loya to give an early verdict? 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] Uh that’s the thing, I don’t know actually, because he did not share that thing with me. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur didn’t know. But Niranjan says she had heard from her mother that pressure took the form of a bribe. Money to be paid to Judge Loya for dismissing the charges against Amit Shah. Nupur was expressing some serious concerns to Niranjan. That Judge Loya had described being pressured to decide a case a certain way, and at the time in 2014, he only had a single case on his docket, the one against Amit Shah. But there was more to the family’s suspicions than the larger circumstances leading up to Judge Loya’s death. According to Niranjan’s reporting, it all started two days before Judge Loya died. Nupur says Judge Loya was sitting in his office when two colleagues, fellow judges, came to his door for an unexpected visit. Niranjan recalls what Nupur told him. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] The two judges, uh went to his office, to Loya’s office and said that uh, we are here to take you to Nagpur to attend the wedding ceremony of one of our uh judge’s daughters. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur had heard they wanted Loya to come with them right away to travel to Nagpur. A city more than ten hours away by train, without packing, without warning. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] And they insisted him so much that the the lawyer had to call his wife, Sharmila. And he asked, his wife to send his uh suitcase to his office. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur told Niranjan that when Judge Loya called his wife, she protested. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] So she was like, you don’t go. You have not prepared anything, so you just come home. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur said Loya’s wife told him not to go. He wasn’t prepared for a trip, so he should just come home instead. But Loya did not go home. He traveled to Nagpur with the other judges and attended the wedding on November 30th. What happened that night after the wedding would become the question Niranjan would investigate for more than a year. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] After that, he returned to the place where he was staying, and he called his wife at 11 in the night, and he talked to her for 43 minutes. And that was the last conversation that he had with his wife. 


Ravi Gupta: According to Nupur, the following morning was when Loya’s family learned that something horrible had happened. Multiple family members, Judge Loya’ wife, his father and all four of his sisters were contacted by a local judge in Nagpur. They were all told the same thing. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] They said that he got a heart attack. The chest pain was going on. They took him to the hospital. 


Ravi Gupta: Loya was having chest pain. So the judges he was traveling with took him to the hospital. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] And he just went up by the staircase. 


Ravi Gupta: The family was told that Loya climbed the staircase to the hospital himself. But that raised questions for Nupur. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] If he’s getting a heart attack, it is not possible for the person to climb. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan also reported that the family was told that Loya received medication at the first hospital, and then was transferred to another hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. They were told the cause of death was recorded as a coronary artery insufficiency, a buildup in the arteries leading to the heart. And that a postmortem, what Americans call an autopsy had already been conducted confirming the cause of death. Nupur clearly wasn’t convinced that this official account was true. For starters, as she told Niranjan in 2016, Judge Loya was in his late 40s and didn’t smoke or drink. His family had no history of heart problems and he had always been active. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] She said he used to play table tennis or badminton every day for two hours. 


Ravi Gupta: And then there was the way Judge Loya’s remains were treated after the postmortem. As soon as they received notice of Judge Loya’s death, Loya’s family immediately began preparing to travel to the hospital in Nagpur. That’s when Judge Loya’s father received a call. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] Don’t come. It’s all done and we are sending dead body to Latur. 


Ravi Gupta: Don’t come. It’s all done. We’re sending the dead body to Latur. A city near Judge Loya’s home town where his parents lived. But it’s not where Loya actually lived, which was Mumbai, about ten hours away. On top of that, the family had not been asked what they want to do with the body. Despite the confusion, the family gathered near Latur to receive the body. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] They reached there at around seven, 7:30 in the evening. 


Ravi Gupta: Judge Loya’s remains arrived later, along with all the property he had on him the night he died, including his clothing and his glasses. It was only later that they realized something was missing. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] When dead body came, mobile should be came along with that. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur said, when the dead body came, Loya’s cell phone should have come along with that. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] But we got it after two days. 


Ravi Gupta: Other members of Judge Loya’s family later said he’d actually had been carrying two cell phones, but the family only received them days later. When the phones were eventually returned to the family, the family says they were blank. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] Everything. All the messages, all the phone call records, everything was deleted from both the phones. 


Ravi Gupta: It’s hard to know what to make of all these details, but it seems that they raise enough questions for the family to wonder. Could Judge Loya’s death have been intentional and made to look like a heart attack? That was a dangerous question to ask. And Nupur’s family soon became hesitant to even talk about what happened. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] They were convinced that don’t talk about this on the phone. Your phones are recording. The people are recording your phones. 


Ravi Gupta: Your phones are recording. The people are recording your phones. Nupur says her family was worried about their phones being tapped. And this wasn’t just a paranoid delusion. Like in the US, government officials in India are supposed to go through a process to get permission to tap someone’s phone, but that hasn’t always happened. Notably, at the time, two stories had already broken of Amit Shah allegedly directing state police to conduct phone taps without a warrant when he was Gujarat’s home minister. Nothing came of those stories, but if true, the phone taps would have been illegal. So Nupur and her family had legitimate reasons to be careful. So far it strikes me that everything Nupur shared with Niranjan about the days around Judge Loya’s death could be seen in one of two ways. From one point of view, these discrepancies could have innocent explanations. The timing of the original judge’s transfer could just be a coincidence. The wiped cell phones could be a technical glitch. A heart attack could just be a heart attack. But the family clearly didn’t trust the official account. At least at first. The question was why? [music break] Niranjan knew the story was incredibly sensitive and he had to be extra careful with his reporting moving forward. He couldn’t just publish Nupur’s account, so much of it was what she had heard from other family members. He needed significantly more sources and more concrete proof. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] She even didn’t have a copy of the postmortem or any medical document. So I understood that it is I who will have to dig out and investigate. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur wanted Niranjan to promise that he would report it. 


[clip of Nupur Biyani] He was my maternal uncle. But if this is not going to stop, instead of my maternal uncle, 100 more people will die. So public should know the thing that the people with whom they are dealing, what kind of people they are. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan told Nupur that he couldn’t guarantee the story would be published, but he promised he would do his best. Nupur left and Niranjan went upstairs to his hotel room. He says he started scribbling down everything they discussed, thinking about their conversation and about how Nupur’s desire for justice seemed so sincere. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] She was so clean and transparent while telling me that if the judges in India get scared, then the poor will never get justice. 


Ravi Gupta: Nupur wasn’t just concerned for her uncle or her family. She was worried about the bigger implications of her uncle’s death. If it was indeed a murder, as in the United States, judges in India are supposed to be the last line of defense for citizen’s rights. If judges in India were now fair game, what would that mean for India as a democracy? 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] And that sentence actually hit me and made me understand that this kid is not seeking a personal revenge. She genuinely wants the system to improve. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan had found his next investigation. In those hours sitting with Nupur, he had already latched on. And he knew with Amit Shah potentially at the center of the story. The stakes couldn’t be higher. [music break] After his recorded conversation with Nupur, Niranjan began to dig and he started trying to get Nupur’s other family members to open up. That was no easy task. He says the family was scared that speaking out could be dangerous. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] They are not only scared, they will get extremely furious that Nupur has talked to me. Talked to a journalist. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan knew that there was a possibility the family was right. Speaking with him could be risky. Involvement in any story seen as critical of the administration could be dangerous. So he set out carefully. He started with a family member closest to Nupur, her mother. Nupur’s mother, Dr. Anuradha Biyani was one of Judge Brijgopal Loya’s five older sisters. Loya was the youngest child. Niranjan said it took some convincing to get Dr. Biyani to agree to meet with him in the summer of 2016. He visited her at work at the hospital where she was a doctor. You can see in the footage that Niranjan interviewed Dr. Biyani and what looked like her office, dimly lit with yellow walls. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] She was wearing a pale lemon sari, the typical traditional Indian attire. And uh, she had spectacles. 


Ravi Gupta: He says Dr. Biyani seemed burdened. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] She looked as if her mood is low. 


Ravi Gupta: As they sat together at the hospital. Niranjan began asking about the most difficult part of this story. The night when Judge Loya died. When Loya’s body was finally delivered to the family in Latur, Dr. Biyani was there. The body arrived at the village in an ambulance, accompanied only by the driver. She saw his body herself delivered on a block of ice. [clip of Dr. Biyani speaking in Marathi starts playing] This is a recording of Niranjan’s interview with Dr. Biyani. That footage would become crucial in many ways for the story Niranjan would publish. Remember the family had been told Judge Loya had chest pain. But Doctor Biyani said that didn’t square with what she observed. [clip of Dr. Biyani speaking in Marathi continues playing] In the footage, she told Niranjan she saw blood on her brother’s shirt. His glasses were broken and tucked behind his head. [clip of Dr. Biyani speaking in Marathi continues playing] We had an actor read a translation of Dr. Biyani’s words. 


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] His face was swollen and the jaw was a little twisted. They said it happened while giving him oxygen, but nothing like that happens. 


Ravi Gupta: Anuradha Biyani was a doctor. Niranjan was sitting with her in a hospital, and she was saying that the condition of his body didn’t match the story that she had been told. She also confirmed what Niranjan first heard from Nupur in the Hotel Royalty. Judge Loya had told Doctor Biyani that he was offered a bribe in exchange for a favorable judgment in the Amit Shah case. [clip of Niranjan Takle speaking in Marathi plays] Niranjan asked, when did he tell you he was offered a bribe? 


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] We were in our village for Diwali, he told everyone that he had this case and he wanted to rule it with truth. 


Ravi Gupta: Doctor Biyani said her brother had first told her about the bribe during their conversation on the holiday of Diwali in 2014, just five weeks before he died. 


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] [clip of Dr. Biyani plays] He was offered 100 crore rupees to roll in their favor. 


Ravi Gupta: 100 crore rupees is more than ten million USD, a massive sum in any country, especially India. The alleged bribe wasn’t just meant to tip the case in favor of Amit Shah. It was also to be done on a specific timeline. 


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] In his last month, he was under a lot of pressure that he should announce the result by 30th December. 


Ravi Gupta: Narendra Modi had just become prime minister, but his party, the BJP, had its own internal leadership. Amit Shah had already been appointed the national president of the BJP in July of 2014, and he was just beginning a new tenure. It’s easy to imagine that it was bad timing for him to also be embroiled in the sensational court case that sat before Judge Loya. And Dr. Biyani claimed her brother told her the source of the alleged bribe.


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] [clip of Dr. Biyani continues playing] Mohit Shah, the chief Justice, used to say this. 


Ravi Gupta: Mohit Shah, no relation to Amit Shah, was the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. He was the highest ranking judicial member in Maharashtra, the western state that includes Mumbai, formerly called Bombay. A video of Dr. Biyani’s interview has been on YouTube since 2017. Several outlets have published this claim, but Justice Mohit Shah has never responded publicly to this allegation. Niranjan shared with us some diary pages he says Dr. Biyani shared with him. According to the diary, the family held a funeral for Judge Loya on December 2nd. Much of the village came to pay their respects. 


[clip of voice actor as Dr. Biyani] The word funeral is almost tongue in cheek, as Brij is a source of sizzling excitement and endless squeals of laughter. How close to Brij I had come. Every day there was a sea of people he had left behind with love, bringing to light the memories awakened in each by the struggle, calmness and discipline that came while seeing him one last time. Everyone’s face looked like they were closer to Brij than I was. The friendship lost due to his departure made everyone an orphan. 


Ravi Gupta: Before Niranjan wrapped up the interview, Dr. Biyani brought one more piece of evidence to his attention. It was an unusual document. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] The date is 18th February 2015. It was a Wednesday and the letter was written at 10:40 p.m. in the night. 


Ravi Gupta: It was an open letter allegedly written by Judge Loya’s son, who was 17 when his father died. His name is Anuj. The letter describes a strange sounding visit from one of Judge Loya’s bosses in the months after his death. We had an actor read parts of the letter. 


[clip of Anuj Loya’s letter read by a voice actor] Today, Chief Justice of Maharashtra Mr. Mohit Shah came to meet us after two and a half months of dad’s death. 


Ravi Gupta: Mohit Shah was the judge who allegedly offered the bribe, according to Dr. Biyani. The letter says Anuj was rattled by the interaction. 


[clip of Anuj Loya’s letter read by a voice actor] I could completely see the guilt on his face. I fear that these politicians can harm any person from my family, and I’m also not powerful enough to fight with them. I told him everything related to dad’s death, and I’ve also asked him to set up an inquiry commission for dad’s death. 


Ravi Gupta: The letter closed with a final sentence handwritten in all caps. 


[clip of Anuj Loya’s letter read by a voice actor] If anything happens to me or my family members, Chief Justice Mohit Shah and others involved in the conspiracy will be responsible. Anuj Loya, 18th Feb 2015. 


Ravi Gupta: If the letter was authentic, it was a profound allegation. We weren’t able to independently corroborate the authenticity of the letter, though Dr. Biyani did confirm to Niranjan that the visit happened. As far as we know, Anuj has never denied writing the letter, even though he walked back some of its claims later on. We’ll get to that in a later episode. But the letter seems to paint a picture of a young man devastated by his father’s death and fearful for his life. After his interview with Dr. Biyani, Niranjan says he spent 18 months painstakingly gathering documents that trace Judge Loya’s last hours, including medical records, the most important of which documented Judge Loya’s autopsy. We’ll get into all of it in coming episodes. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] I was doing a story, which was going to point fingers at the most powerful politician in India. And the atmosphere in India then and even now, it’s so hostile that you never know what would happen. 


Ravi Gupta: The article Niranjan wrote didn’t prove that Judge Loya’s death had been a murder. But it did poke holes in the official account and raised a number of questions that needed answers. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] I basically wanted my story to be watertight. Extremely. 


Ravi Gupta: But there was a major problem. After Niranjan drafted his article. The editors at the Week rejected the story, just like they did with the cow trader story we talked about at the beginning of the episode. When we reached out to the Week to ask why, the senior editor, V.S. Jayaschandran, got back to us to say that he found the Loya reporting incomplete and unconvincing. Niranjan has his own theory about why they killed the Judge Loya story. That his editors caved to political pressure. We don’t know for sure how it all went down, but I can’t help but think of the Savarkar story. That’s the article that Niranjan wrote that was critical of one of the Hindu nationalist’s heroes from the mid 20th century, a man particularly idolized on the right. I mentioned that Niranjan had been sued for criminal defamation over the story, and there was a lot of tension between him and his editors at the Week. But it’s worth also mentioning that the suit was quite unusual. Savarkar had been dead for more than five decades. India’s criminal libel law is extreme, but it’s still pretty strange to sue on behalf of someone long dead. The Week eventually settled the case out of court. They retracted the story and published the following apology, quote, “We hold Veer Savarkar in high esteem. If this article has caused any personal hurt to any individual, we the management express our regret and apologize for such publication.” It’s a very strange apology. From my perspective, it’s not a retraction based on publishing incorrect facts or mischaracterizations. It’s essentially an apology for hurting someone’s feelings. According to Human Rights Watch, criminal defamation cases like this are rampant in India and are often used as bullying tactics, and the impact is a chill on free speech. This whole incident looks to me like the Week was effectively bullied into retracting a politically sensitive story. When we asked the Week for a comment, they told us that the magazine published the apology out of respect for Savarkar and his descendants. After the magazine killed the Loya story, Niranjan and the Week parted ways. Niranjan scrambled to find a new publication willing to run the story. He sent the draft to The Caravan, a left leaning magazine that was known for its gutsy investigations and political coverage. 


[clip of Vinod Jose] When I read the draft, I was like, look at this, this looks like a Bollywood script. 


Ravi Gupta: Vinod Jose, Caravan’s former executive editor, was one of the people who helped Niranjan prepare it for release. 


[clip of Vinod Jose] You know, there are real characters here. These are names of people who are familiar. These are people who are holding high offices, but it’s just not adding up. I mean, like this this can’t be nonfiction. This has to be a fiction story, right? 


Ravi Gupta: He saw the story as explosive. 


[clip of Vinod Jose] Here is a judge who refused to take a $15 million bribe to acquit one of the most powerful politicians in the country, and the right hand man of Prime Minister Modi for 30 years. And that’s the charge. That’s the question that Judge Loya’s death leaves behind. 


Ravi Gupta: Niranjan’s first story with the Caravan went live on November 19th, 2017 with the headline, A Family Breaks its Silence: shocking details emerge in the death of a judge presiding over the Sohrabuddin trial. The Caravan published three articles in quick succession. The first, an article detailing inconsistencies between the official account of Loya’s death and what his family observed. Much of what we’ve covered in this episode. The next day, they released the second article. Doctor Biyani’s account of her brother being offered a bribe. Then, crucially, they published the video interviews Niranjan had done with the Loya family, including interviews with Doctor Biyani, her sister, and her father. Here’s executive editor Vinod Jose again. 


[clip of Vinod Jose] Because in Indian journalism, often even if you write up a great story, people would say, oh, the sources never said this, or these people were, you know, misquoted. 


Ravi Gupta: By sharing the videos, the Caravan showed their work. That protected them from accusations that Niranjan invented the family’s concerns. [music break] Publishing these stories was an immense relief to Niranjan. 


[clip of Niranjan Takle] The pressure and the burden that I was carrying had suddenly disappeared. 


Ravi Gupta: The questions Judge Loya’s family raised were now public and that opened a door for other reporters to take what Niranjan started and keep digging. Next time I travel to the city where Judge Loya died, Nagpur. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Thank you. We’re walking up right now. We’re walking into Dante hospital here. So we’re outside Meditrina Hospital. This is the second hospital that Judge Loya came to. 


Ravi Gupta: And I learn about a massive, powerful, and largely misunderstood organization that few know about outside of India, but is the basis of many of Prime Minister Modi’s beliefs and policies. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Okay, so we are we are we are approaching the RSS headquarters, and it is as secure as any building, even probably more so than even the Supreme Court. [music break]


Ravi Gupta: Killing Justice is an original podcast from Crooked Media and the Branch Media. I’m your host, Ravi Gupta. Our executive producers are me Ravi Gupta, Katie Long, Ben Rhodes and Alison Falzetta. With special thanks to Sarah Geismer, Madeleine Haeringer and Kate Malekoff. Our senior producer is Khrista Rypl, and Lacy Roberts is our story editor. Our associate producer is Sydney Rapp. Fact checking by Amy Tardif. Sound design and mixing by Sarah Gibble-Laska, with assistant editing by Nathalie Escudero. And original score by Karim Douaidy.