July 9, 2021 12:54:25 am
A magisterial inquiry will be conducted into the death of Father Stan Swamy, who passed away at the Holy Family hospital in Mumbai’s Bandra on Monday, officials of the Maharashtra prison department said.
The 83-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case on October 8, 2020, died in judicial custody while undergoing treatment at the hospital. He was lodged in Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai before he was shifted to the private hospital as his health worsened on May 28.
A prison department official sid that as per procedure, an accidental death report (ADR) will be registered by the police, following which the magisterial inquiry will begin. “According to mandated procedure for cases where a person dies in police or judicial custody, a magisterial inquiry is required to be conducted,” the official added.
The official further said that as per Section 176 (1A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, inquiry into all cases of custodial deaths, rapes and disappearances in custody have to be conducted by a judicial magistrate. The section was added in the statute in 2005. Prior to this, such probes were conducted by the executive magistrate.
The official said that due to a National Human Rights Commission order in 2010 that stated that judicial inquiries were not mandatory in cases where there were no allegations, probes were not conducted into all such deaths for a decade. However, last year, NHRC defined the scope of inquiry to include cases of custodial deaths, including natural deaths and deaths caused by illness.
“With this, Swamy’s death in judicial custody will fall under this particular section. Hence, though as per the hospital, he died of natural causes, a magisterial inquiry will be conducted,” the official said.
The Bombay High Court, on May 28, had directed state prison authorities to shift Swamy from Taloja Central Jail to the private-run Holy Family Hospital for 15 days, while asking Swamy to bear the cost of his treatment. Swamy was shifted to the hospital ICU the same night and put on oxygen support. The HC continued his stay at the hospital from time to time.
Seeking interim bail on grounds of the pandemic, Swamy had said that he suffered from Parkinson’s, among other health issues. He had also filed for bail on grounds that he was arrested for challenging indiscriminate arrests of thousands of young adivasis labeled as “naxals” without any proof of their involvement. The special court had, however, disallowed his pleas.