August 7, 2021 4:09:53 am
The Bombay High Court on Friday observed that it was “paradoxical and confusing” that while the Elgaar Parishad case accused had time and again complained about facilities and overcrowding at Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai, they were opposing a special NIA court order that has directed them to be transferred to other jails in Maharashtra.
Observing so, the court refused to pass any immediate relief in a plea filed by accused Mahesh Raut, along with other co-accused lodged in Taloja jail, seeking a stay on the special NIA court order. The plea claimed that the order was passed without following due procedure and the special judge had permitted the superintendent of Taloja jail to transfer undertrials to other prisons.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar was hearing a batch of pleas filed on behalf of arrested accused and activists in the case — Mahesh Raut, Anand Teltumbde, Surendra Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale – all lodged in Taloja jail.
Raut, in his plea filed through advocate Vijay Hiremath, challenged the special NIA court order that had permitted his transfer to Mumbai Central Prison, also known as Arthur Road jail, stating that the ruling was passed without hearing him.
He added that he is from Chandrapur and faces several health problems. His sister and brother-in-law, who stay close to Taloja jail, provide him with medicines and other necessary items and if transferred to Mumbai Central Jail, the situation would become difficult, Raut told the court.
A plea filed through Teltumbde and Gadling’s wives – Rama Teltumbde and Minal Gadling – along with Dhawale’s friend Sharad Gaikwad, said that the action (transferring the accused to other jails) by the former Taloja jail superintendent was “an act of victimising the accused for having demanded their rights as prisoners”.
The plea added that orders of special NIA court Judge D E Kothalikar, who repeatedly permitted the transfer of the accused without issuing them a notice or hearing them, violated “principles of natural justice”.
The kin of the three inmates, who filed the petition on behalf of all the men accused in the case and lodged in Taloja jail, stated that “an extremely prejudicial order” was passed by the special NIA court. ‘
Of the 13 accused men lodged in Taloja jail, Varavara Rao is at present out on medical bail, Hany Babu is admitted in a private hospital in south Mumbai while Father Stan Swamy had passed away on July 5.
The remaining – Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor – are currently lodged in Taloja jail.
Citing instances of violation of rights by prison authorities during the pandemic, the petition said that there is “strict censorship” when it comes to the relatives of the accused.
Following this, the HC said: “All the time, allegations are made that jail authorities are not giving proper care, there is overcrowding. There are all sorts of allegations made against authorities and now you are saying you may be allowed to stay only in Taloja jail. This is confusing and paradoxical. Because all the time you are complaining but then you want to stay back. In first place, you have to argue what is your right to stay the transfer. Find the provisions traceable in law…”
Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, appearing for the state prison department, sought time till Wednesday to respond to the petition, which was granted by the court.
After lawyers of the accused sought a stay on the special NIA court order till the next hearing, the HC refused to pass any directions and said that it cannot do so without hearing the respondent authority. The court will hear the pleas next on August 11.
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