Updated: July 6, 2021 11:58:02 am
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) has started an online petition addressed to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana demanding a judicial inquiry into the “reasons for the deterioration of health” of tribal rights activists and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy while in prison, terming it a “custodial death”.
Swamy was arrested in the Elgar Parishad case and was lodged at Taloja Jail. He died on Monday at the age of 84. Swamy had tested positive for Covid-19 on May 30 and had been admitted to the Holy Family Hospital, Mumbai. On Sunday, he was put on a ventilator after his condition deteriorated.
The JNUSU has also asked the CJI to review Swamy’s bail application and “ascertain and review why interim bail was denied to him despite his ill health and full cooperation with the investigation”.
They have also asked the CJI to “immediately institute a judicial review on the application of laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), National Security Act (NSA), and Section 124(A) of the IPC (Sedition)”, and “review all existing cases under these laws where bail is being denied, without any compelling evidence”. They have said that these undertrials should be extended interim bail or directions should be provided for the “completion of speedy trial without any delay”.
Expressing a “deep sense of anguish” at the “custodial death” of Swamy, the JNUSU has written, “Despite always co-operating with the investigating agencies and with no compelling evidence to suggest why he should have been kept in prison, the NIA opposed his bail and the judicial authorities also chose to neglect his deteriorating health and repeatedly denied interim bail. Fr. Stan Swamy suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had recently even contracted Covid-19 at this old age. On numerous instances, his counsel also appraised the courts of how he was denied basic health facilities and even a straw to sip water, because of his existing condition.”
“In his last appearance before the honourable court, Fr. Stan Swamy while requesting for interim bail had said, “I would prefer to suffer and die like this in Taloja jail than being admitted to JJ Hospital. It will not improve; it will keep going. Only one thing that I would request the judiciary is to consider for interim bail. That is the only request.” The bail was never granted and Fr. Stan Swamy’s health only deteriorated further after months of unnecessary, wrongful incarceration, and denial of basic health facilities in jail. And in his ‘custodial death’, a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place that blots the conscience of our country’s judicial system,” the JNUSU said.
They said Swamy’s death was a “grim reminder of what is happening to many others”.
“The wanton imposition of a draconian law like the UAPA, the incarceration of members of civil society and the denial of bail is turning into a perverse exercise of meting out punishment even before a person is guilty. As a democratic republic committed to the rule of law and natural justice, this perverse use of the law and procedure by those exercising power must be reigned in,” the JNUSU wrote.
“While the judicial process must take its due course, we cannot ignore the fact that in too many instances, the due process itself is turning into punishment for scores of under-trials lodged under these draconian provisions. If charges are not proven under a court of law within a short and defined period of time, they should be granted bail. The death of Fr. Stan Swamy cannot be reversed but his death must compel us, as citizens of India, to seek a guarantee that such a miscarriage of justice never occurs again,” they said.
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