“We are shocked…we have no words to express,” said the division bench of Bombay High Court when told about Stan Swamy’s death on Monday.
“We are sorry to know that despite your (the hospital’s) best efforts, Father Stan Swamy is not with us,” the bench said.
“At the cost of repetition, our deepest condolences and may his soul rest in peace. We all share this. We appreciate your efforts, you prevailed over him to get admitted in hospital. He could go to the hospital, he got the best medical treatment. Unfortunately, he could not survive,” Justice Shinde told senior counsel Mihir Desai, representing Swamy.
Records show that since his arrest on October 8, 2020 and his production before a court the next day, the issue of Swamy’s old age, ailments and health came up multiple times before both the special NIA court and High Court. A look at some of the key submissions:
October 9, 2020
When Swamy was produced before the special court in Mumbai for the first time, his legal team submitted that he could not even sign the vakalatnama, as his hands shook due to Parkinson’s disease. Eventually, his thumb impression was taken. The court sent Swamy to judicial custody as NIA did not seek his custodial interrogation. Swamy was then sent to Taloja Central Jail in Maharashtra.
The special court rejected Swamy’s interim bail plea, sought on medical grounds. Swamy’s lawyers had submitted that due to his old age and prevailing medical conditions, he should be considered for release temporarily. It was also submitted that he had suffered a fall in the jail and the court could consider releasing him on humanitarian grounds. NIA submitted since UAPA had been invoked against Swamy, he could not be released on temporary bail. The agency also said he was taking “undue benefit” of the global pandemic.
The court accepted that he could not be granted relief, as he was not among the categories of prisoners entitled for temporary bail as recommended by the committee to decongest jails.
Swamy’s lawyers urged the court to provide his sipper and straw, as he was unable to drink water due to the tremor in his hands. The lawyers said that when he was arrested by NIA, his colleagues in Ranchi had packed a bag with his belongings, including his clothes and a steel sipper and straw to help him drink water or tea without spilling. The plea sought for the return of the straw and sipper. The NIA said it had not seized any items belonging to Swamy.
After the NIA’s submission, the special court rejected the plea. It said a fresh application could be made to provide him with the items as per jail manual. After the issue was raised by various authorities including the State Human Rights Commission, the jail authorities said Swamy was provided with a straw, sipper, walking stick, walker, and batteries for his hearing aid.
Swamy filed for regular bail. Besides seeking to be released claiming that there was no evidence against him, his bail plea also mentioned his old age and health conditions stating that there was no purpose being served by keeping an 83-year old incarcerated.
March 22, 2021
The special court rejected Swamy’s bail. It said, “…collective interest of the community would outweigh the right of personal liberty of the applicant and as such the old age and or alleged sickness…would not go in his favour.”
Desai told Bombay High Court about lack of medical facilities in prison and lack of physical distance measures due to overcrowding. He also submitted that Swamy’s health was deteriorating; that he was taking allopathic medicines, including antibiotics prescribed by ayurvedic practitioner at Taloja Jail hospital. Due to his ill-health and severe comorbidities, Swamy was at risk of getting infected by Covid-19, he submitted.
The prison report and its counsel claimed that the general condition of Swamy was stable and he was provided a high-protein diet, hot water for bath, and had two attendants from among prisoners who had volunteered to look after him. Swamy had a “stable pumping heart and good circulation of blood”, and was vaccinated against Covid-19 on May 18, the report said. Desai disputed the report and said it made no mention of Swamy suffering from abdomen pain and the pain due to lumbar spondylitis, among other ailments.
The HC directed the state-run JJ Hospital to form an expert panel to examine Swamy’s health condition. It also asked the prison authorities to produce Swamy before the court through video-conference on May 21.
Swamy appeared before the vacation bench through video-conference and told the bench his health has seen a steady regression. He also sought to be released on bail so he could go to Ranchi and “be with his own”. Swamy refused the court’s suggestion to be shifted to JJ Hospital, stating that he did not want to be hospitalised there and would “rather suffer” and “possibly die very shortly” if things were to go on as they were.
Desai sought court’s permission to speak with Swamy again to see if he would agree to be hospitalized. Court allowed Desai’s request
Desai submitted that Swamy was ready to undergo treatment at Holy Family Hospital and would himself bear the cost. His health was deteriorating and he required to be admitted for proper treatment, Desai said.
The NIA opposed shifting Swamy to a private hospital and said he could instead be taken to JJ Hospital. The agency said that allowing admission to a private hospital may undermine the government hospital’s capabilities and set a wrong precedent.
HC directed Swamy to be shifted to Holy Family Hospital for 15 days and asked Swamy to bear the expenses. The court refused the state’s request to shift him to J J Hospital due to pandemic situation and “influx of patients” at state-run hospital.
Desai informed HC that Swamy had tested positive for Covid-19 on May 30 and sought extension of his stay at the private hospital. The court deemed Desai’s request appropriate and extended the stay till June 18. It also sought medical report from the hospital on Swamy’s health.
Desai urged the court to allow Swamy to remain at Holy Family Hospital, as he had been shifted to ICU again, and that he has heart problems.
HC asked NIA whether hearing could be deferred by four weeks due to Swamy’s medical condition. The NIA sought to go through the hospital report and respond in two weeks. The court accepted this. The court also perused a report by the medical director and obsered ‘there were serious medical issues’ and extended his treatment at the hospital till July 5.
The NIA opposed Swamy’s bail plea stating that it had evidence to prove he was involved in “deep-rooted” conspiracy and was directly involved in “Naxalite movement” through the banned CPI (Maoist).
Desai submitted that Swamy was still in ICU. He also informed HC about Swamy’s fresh criminal writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 43D (5) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) that creates “obstacle” for an accused to be granted bail, being violative of fundamental rights under article 14 and 19 of constitution.
The HC extended Swamy’s treatment in hospital till July 6, when it scheduled to hear the pleas next.
At 2: 30 pm, the court was informed about Swamy breathing his last at 1:24 pm on Monday afternoon.
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