Bombay HC: Prison Authorities to Admit Father Stan Swamy to JJ Hospital

The court has ordered for medical checkup to be conducted and has directed the dean of JJ Hospital to get the necessary tests and present on May 21st.

Father Stan Swamy
Stan Swamy moved to be moved JJ Hospital. Image by Khetfield59. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Swamy#/media/File:Stan_Swamy_(2010).jpg

The Bombay HC has directed the prison authorities to admit Father Stan Swamy at JJ Hospital once more, just a day after he was moved back to Taloja prison. The court has ordered for medical checkup to be conducted and has also directed the dean of JJ Hospital to form a committee of doctors, to conduct whatever tests are necessary and submit a medical report on Friday, May 21st.

Stan Swamy’s health has been deteriorating in Taloja Prison, where medical facilities and treatment is abysmal. Swamy is currently suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he also cannot hear or stand on his own. With news of Covid-19 spread in Talojia Prison, his lawyers had moved a note to the Bombay HC, asking for urgent hearing of Swamy’s medical bail plea. They cited poor social distancing in the prison as well as lack of adequate medical facilities as key reasons to prepone the hearing. In a note filed to the HC on May 17th, Swamy had reported that he was having fever and cough. In addition to Ayurvedic treatment, he was also receiving some antibiotics, which seemed to have been causing a running stomach.

Prior to this, on May 4th, the HC directed the state government to provide a medical report on Swamy’s condition in Taloja. Taloja prison authorities, in a report filed in response to this, stated that Swamy was stable and was given a high protein diet, adequate hot water and the help of two attendants, among other facilities. However, Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai pointed out how the Taloja Prison report, did not mention a number of ailments Swamy is suffering from including pain due to lumbar spondylitis.

After much campaigning, online petitions, and follow-ups from friends and family of Swamy’s, as well as Maharashtra MLAs and MPs, the HC directed that Swamy be taken to JJ hospital (on May 18th), only for him to be taken back to Taloja Prison a few hours later. Much of this campaigning had been carried out by Jesuits across India, who wrote to state home minister, Dilip Waise Patil, to intervene and demand immediate medical aid for Swamy. MP Supriya Sule, daughter of politician Sharad Pawar, requested the home minister to step in as well. Swamy received the first dose of vaccination for Covid-19, before being taken to the hospital, yesterday. Swamy, who should have been one of the first to be vaccinated, when the first vaccination prison drive began in February, had been left out until yesterday.

The conditions of prisons during the pandemic has been abysmal; a high incidence of Covid-19 positive cases have been reported from prisons. According to the note sent to the HC by Mihir Desai, Taloja Prison, where majority of Elgaar Parishad accused have been arrested, can house only 2124 inmates, and requires 2/3rd capacity of the prison i.e. 1416 inmates to maintain social distancing norms. However, according to the MH state prison website, the prison is holding 3251 inmates. This as well as poor facilities and hardly any state initiatives to vaccinate prisoners, could be key reasons why Taloja has seen a particularly high incidence of Covid-19 cases. Last week, Professor Hanny Babu, a co-accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, who is lodged in Taloja, had tested positive for the virus. Babu is also suffering from severe eye infection, even losing partial sight in his left eye. Babu has been moved to the hospital as well.

Under the Elgaar Parishad case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested 16 activists and scholars, with little to no evidence. In the case of Swamy, the NIA has claimed that he is a member of the banned CPI(Maoist). News of mistreatment of the accused in prisons has been coming out in the past few years. Medical bail pleas have been repeatedly rejected for many of the accused. The provision of basic medical facilities, for example, a sipper for drinking water in Swamy’s case, has required lawyers to move pleas to the HC. With bail being constantly rejected for most of the 16 accused, many have spent years languishing in jail.

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