New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s lawyers have sought a good 20 days time to file a reply to Father Stan Swamy’s application before a special court that he be allowed to use a straw and sipper in prison to drink water, as he cannot hold a glass because of Parkinson’s disease.
Eighty-three-year-old Swamy, a Jesuit priest and a senior tribal rights’ activist working out of Jharkhand for decades, is lodged in Taloja Central Jail, after he was arrested in the Elgar Parishad case on October 8 from his residence in Ranchi. He was brought to Mumbai the next day and is currently admitted in the prison hospital. The NIA made him an accused in the case but later did not seek his police custody, as a result of which he was remanded to judicial custody from October 9.
His request for bail on medical grounds was rejected by special judge Dinesh E. Kothalikar on October 22. He applied for medical bail on the grounds that he has been suffering from Parkinsons’s disease and has almost lost his hearing ability. Swamy’ application said that he had fallen in the jail multiple times, and that he had pain in his lower abdomen because of two recent surgeries.
The judge relied “upon the directions of the high powered committee constituted to release undertrial prisoners during COVID 19 pandemic” but rejected Swamy’s request on grounds that he was an accused person under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
“The accused (Father Swamy) is involved in commission of offence punishable under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act cannot be said to be entitled for interim bail,” the judge is quoted as saying.
“The grounds pleaded by the applicant for grant of bail does not reveal that the medical treatment provided to the applicant in prison is not sufficient. On the contrary the applicant had submitted an application for giving directions to the jail authorities to provide him the required amenities,” the court said.
The court also mentioned in its order the superintendent of Taloja Central’s defence.
“Since the applicant is old aged person, he has been lodged in the separate cell in the hospital/dispensary section. It does not speak even by stretch of imagination that the applicant is suffering from any illness for which the treatment is not available in the prison,” it said.
Sixteen people from multiple professions, all of whom have a long history in rights’ advocacy and social movements, have been arrested by the NIA over the last two years in the Elgar Parishad case. Until now, the NIA has filed two chargesheets in the case, alleging that “Leftists groups with Maoist links” associated with the Elgar Parishad event had orchestrated violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon in January 2018.