THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) has opposed bail for the Elgaar Parishad accused citing that guidelines to release prisoners on temporary bail due to Covid-19 is “not applicable” to the case. Poet and activist Varavara Rao (81), former professors and activists, 61-year-old Shoma Sen and 58-year-old Sudha Bharadwaj, have sought bail on medical grounds citing their susceptibility to the virus.
The high-powered committee, which was constituted to decongest jails in the state, has recommended the release of all undertrials with exceptions, including those facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Elgaar Parishad accused are booked under UAPA. It has, however, left it to such accused to file for interim bail to be considered on medical grounds or circumstances of the case by the courts.
Bharadwaj in her bail plea has said that due to her pre-existing medical conditions namely diabetes and high blood pressure, she is at high-risk of contracting coronavirus in prison. Sen had said that she suffers from multiple ailments such as osteoarthritis, glaucoma and high blood pressure. The two are lodged in Byculla women’s prison, where a 54-year-old inmate tested positive. Referring to it, the bail applications say that there is a possibility that the infection has spread to more inmates or prison officials. Bharadwaj’s plea also says that no social distancing is possible in the jail.
“No social distancing is possible in Byculla which houses over 350 inmates against its capacity of around 262 inmates. As per government advisories, a minimum of one metre distance must be maintained between people to safeguard themselves from contracting the virus. This means that for each inmate to remain safe, she requires 1m x 1m space i.e. 10.76 sq ft at the very minimum to ensure a safe distance from other inmates. This is simply not possible in Byculla jail given the space constraints,” the plea says.
The NIA has said there is no provision for temporary bail under UAPA and jail authorities can be directed for their necessary care in case of an outbreak.
The special court has directed the jail authorities to submit their medical reports and adjourned the hearing to next week.
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