On Tuesday, the special NIA court granted access to five books a month to law professor Sudha Bharadwaj, who is being held in Mumbai’s Byculla Women’s Jail for her alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case.
“The Superintendent shall carefully examine the books and if they contain objectionable material, which preaches violence, vulgar, obscene, pornographic or the material propagating the banned organisation namely Revolutionary Democratic Front or CPI (Maoist), in that case he shall not allow the applicant [Bharadwaj] to accept such books,” the court said.
Last month, Bharadwaj filed a plea with the court stating that prison authorities did not allow her access to books sent by her family or lawyers.
Bharadwaj is among several activists and lawyers who were arrested by the Pune Police in the Elgar Parishad case in 2018. In 2020, the case was transferred to the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which has subsequently arrested more activists and academics, with the most recent ones being Delhi University professor Hany Babu and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy.
Along with Sudha Bharadwaj, other accused in the case had also moved applications before the Special Court seeking access to books and newspapers inside the prison. Hanny Babu and Gautam Navlakha, who are lodged at Taloja jail, and Bharadwaj who is lodged at Byculla prison, moved applications in December.
Fr. Stan Swamy, 83, a tribal rights activist with Parkinson’s disease was denied the use of a sipper cup and straw initially by the Taloja Central Jail authorities. After massive backlash and campaigns, he was finally granted a straw, sipper cup, and warm clothes for the winter.
In the case of the 80-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao, the Bombay HC had to intervene in order for the Taloja Jail Authorities to shift him to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. He had also tested positive for Covid, and was found lying in a “pool of urine.”
Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty appeared for the NIA whereas Advocate Chandani Chawla for Sudha Bharadwaj, Hanny Babu and Gautam Navlakha.