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Judicial inquiry into Stan Swamy’s death yet to be initiated: State in Bombay HC

Oral comments made on Swamy, withdrawn by the court after ASG submitted they were ‘twisted’ on social media and by the press.

Civil rights activist Father Stan Swamy (File)

The Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on Friday that a judicial magisterial inquiry into the death of Father Stan Swamy is yet to be initiated. Swamy, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on October 8, 2020, as an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, died in a private hospital on July 5.

During Friday’s hearing before Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar, Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai sought that an inquiry be conducted in Mumbai, in which Father Frazer Mascarenhas, the former principal of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, who was handed over Swamy’s body, be allowed to participate.

Desai also sought that the inquiry be conducted in accordance with the procedure laid down by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a report be submitted to the High Court.

The bench asked the state government if the inquiry had been initiated to which Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai said, it hasn’t. The bench also asked Pai if the post-mortem examination was conducted as per procedure, to which she replied in the affirmative stating that it was videographed.

According to the NHRC guidelines, cases of custodial deaths require an inquiry by a judicial magistrate. Swamy died while in judicial custody and an Accidental Death Record (ADR) was registered after his death.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh said the appeals filed by Swamy being heard by the High Court would stand abated since he has passed away. Singh said that while he had no objection to legal procedures being followed for the inquiry into his death, there is no question of filing a report before the High Court as the pending appeals will be considered abated now. Chief PP Pai appearing for the state also said that she supported the ASG’s contention.

“We are looking at a peculiar situation where the death has happened while the appeals were pending before this court. This court’s supervisory jurisdiction does not go away, it has the power to ensure justice is done in view of events that have happened,” Desai submitted before the bench.

The bench asked Desai and other parties to assist the court and submit notes on their stand on whether the appeals are maintainable or a liberal approach can be adopted. The court will hear the matter on August 4.

Oral comments made on Father Stan Swamy withdrawn by Bombay High Court

On Friday, during a hearing in connection with Father Stan Swamy, who died while his appeals for bail were pending before the Bombay High Court, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) submitted that personal comments made by the bench on Swamy were “twisted” on social media and by the press.

“With utmost request, we have condoled the death of Mr Swamy but any personal comments or private view coming from judges or law officers in an open court in a pending investigation on activities or work of the accused…what has happened in the past week, after Lordships passed comment on his work, the comments have been twisted by social media and press,” Singh submitted before the bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar.

Justice Shinde told the ASG that while speaking on Swamy, the court had clarified that so far as legal issues and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against him were concerned, they were a separate matter. “If you are hurt if I have said something…we take them back… our endeavour is always balanced… I take back whatever I said personally… but we are also human beings, suddenly something like this happens, naturally, as a human being, our mind gets… beyond this we have nothing to say. You may be right, but we have no control on what happens outside (the court),” Justice Shinde said. ASG Singh said it was about the public perception.

During the last hearing on July 19, the court had said that it had “great respect” for Father Stan Swamy’s work and, legally, whatever there was against Swamy was a different matter.

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