A SPECIAL court on Thursday rejected the interim bail plea of 83-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, arrested this month in the Elgaar Parishad case. Swamy had filed the interim bail application on medical grounds citing his age and prevailing health conditions.
Swamy was arrested on October 8 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Ranchi, Jharkhand, and brought to Mumbai the next day.
The agency did not seek his custody and filed a supplementary chargesheet against him and seven others. Swamy has been in jail since.
Lawyer Sharif Shaikh, representing Swamy, submitted to the special court that Swamy is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was not able to even sign the vakaltnama due to it at the time of his production before the court by the NIA. The legal team took his thumb impression, it was submitted. The court was also told that Swamy had undergone a surgery and hospitalisation before his arrest and had also suffered a fall in jail. Shaikh submitted that there was no bar on release of an undertrial on humanitarian grounds or as per the recommendations of the high-powered committee appointed on orders of the Supreme Court to decongest jails.
Opposing his bail plea, the NIA had submitted that he was “trying to take an undue benefit” of the ongoing pandemic. “The accused Stan Swamy under the garb of the current situation on account of the global pandemic Covid-19 is trying to take an undue benefit of the situation…in seeking bail…,” the NIA’s reply to the bail plea states. It also claimed that Swamy was booked under various serious charges including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, alleging that there was adequate evidence to prove the case against him.
The chargesheet against Swamy claims that he was a member of the CPI (Maoist) and received funds for its activities. It had also referred to his work as part of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee. Swamy, in his statement, had said that his work challenging indiscriminate arrests of thousands of young Adivasis labelled as “Naxals” was the reason he was being implicated.
The NIA has also submitted that while the committee’s guidelines recommend considering the grant of interim bail to undertrials above 60 years of age, it cannot be granted mechanically. The court rejected the plea, the detailed order of which is yet to be made available.