It was a tweet from a mother in the United States that drew attention to the case on Wednesday. “@SushmaSwaraj Colette Smith, US citizen – Dehradun prison – 17 months. Prosecutors ignore deadlines imposed by court – bleeding intestines. Help,” tweeted Rosemary Nowak.
In her response, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, “Ms Rosemary Nowak – Pl do not worry. I will ensure that your daughter gets immediate medical help.”
On Thursday, jail authorities said Colette Smith was taken for a check-up to the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences at Jolly Grant. “She has been receiving treatment at Jolly Grant, AIIMS Rishikesh and even AIIMS Delhi regularly. She has gynaecological problems, urinary tract infection and some psychological problems,” said Jail Superintendent M S Gwal.
Smith was arrested on January 14, 2015 from the Indira Gandhi International airport at Delhi. While sources at the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) said she was trying to flee the country, her friends claimed she had a return ticket and was planning to come back. A complaint was filed against her and two others by the NCB.
According to Lav Kumar Singh, who is the investigating officer, they had received information that drugs containing pseudoephedrine, a controlled substance used in medicines for cold and cough, were seized in Manipur from where they were headed across the border. “Some of these were made by Daffohils, a Dehradun-based company. On investigation, we found that this company was not using most of the pseudoephedrine it was acquiring for medicines but was diverting it. Many of the distributors who were named in their records said they never received the medicines from them,” said Singh.
Smith was the director of Daffohils for a brief period, after it was taken over by her associate Dr Vijay Aggawal in 2012. It has since gone back to its previous owner.
Smith, with a degree in physical health, also co-founded Bella Health, an NGO in Dehradun that works with women’s health, in 2011 with Agarwal, whom she knew from the US and who had family in Dehradun.
“We have asked the Enforcement Directorate to investigate that foundation too,” said Singh. There have been a total of six arrests but Agarwal hasn’t responded to summons and has not visited India since, he said.
Smith’s friends said she has a host of medical issues and her health has been deteriorating in prison. “She has endometriosis, thyroid and persistent urinary tract infection. She needs specialised care,” said Bani Hoon, who knew Smith because of their association with People for Animals.
Last July, Smith was granted interim bail for two months on health grounds, but her plea for an extension was rejected. Manavi Bhatt, another friend Smith made when she turned up at the animal shelter that she volunteers at in 2010 and adopted five dogs, said Smith puts up a brave front but they fear she will break down any moment.
“She has been on the catheter for a year now, she looks all bloated and puffy. She had medical problems earlier too, and they have been aggravated in jail,” said Bhatt who met her at the last hearing on May 6. The next hearing is on May 17.
Bhatt said Smith’s father came to Dehradun in January and March this year and is expected again soon.