The death of 84-year-old tribal activist Father Stan Swamy in a Mumbai hospital on Monday due to ailments exacerbated by his incarceration without bail in the Bhima Koregaon case, has turned the spotlight on the other accused in case who remain in jail with medical conditions.
The Bombay High Court and special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court have repeatedly denied several interim medical bail pleas of the six senior citizens with co-morbidities over the past three years.
Poet Varavara Rao is 81-years-old, Prof. Anand Teltumbde, former managing director and CEO of Petronet India Limited is 70; writer and a columnist Vernon Gonsalves is 68; civil rights scholar and journalist Gautam Navlakha is 68; former head of department of English at Nagpur University, Prof Shoma Sen is 63-years-old and trade unionist and human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj is 61.
Mr. Rao was granted interim medical bail of six months from the High Court on February 22 after it was rejected twice by the special NIA court. His wife, P. Hemalatha had urged the court to consider his neurological and cardiac issues along with other ailments such as piles, prostate enlargement, coronary artery disease, oedema, hypertension, acidity, sinus and migraine.
The other accused also suffer from chronic ailments. Mr. Teltumbde suffers from chronic bronchitis asthma, chronic cervical spondylitis, supraspinatus tendinosis and postrtomegaly; Mr Gonsalves has hypertension, high blood pressure and bleeding piles; Mr. Navlakha is a patient of colonic polyposis, chronic gastritis, and hypertension; Ms Sen suffers from multiple ailments including osteoarthritis, glaucoma and high blood pressure and Ms. Bharadwaj has hypertension, diabetes mellitus, moderate depression; osteoarthritis, heart ischemic disease, and tinea corporis (skin fungal infection).
On May 3, 2021, Ms Bharadwaj’s daughter Maaysha Singh had moved High Court seeking interim medical bail for her mother as she has several co-morbidities and is very sucepetible to COVID-19 inside jail. The court however, had disposed of the case after it was informed that she has received medical treatment in jail.
On August 28, 2020, High Court had rejected the second medical bail of Ms Bharadwaj and said, “She is taken care of in so far as her health condition is concerned.”
On May 29, 2020, special NIA court had rejected Ms Bharadwaj’s interim bail plea on medical grounds due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in jail. The agency had opposed her bail by saying, “Ms. Bhardwaj under the garb of current situation on the account global pandemic COVID-19 , is trying to take an undue benefit of the aforesaid situation in seeking bail on the grounds mentioned in her application.”
On June 26, 2020, the special NIA court had for the second time rejected the interim medical bail pleas of Mr. Rao and Ms Sen. These pleas were filed on the grounds of susceptibility to COVID 19. On March 31, 2020, the special court had rejected their first interim medical bail.
Along with interim medical bail applications, some statutory, default and bail on merits have been rejected of several other accused.
Surendra Gadling, a Nagpur-based advocate know for representing those booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act; Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist and writer; Mahesh Raut, known for working for the tribals in Gadchiroli; Rona Wilson, an activist working for political prisoners; Arun Ferreira, advocate and activist; Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) are lodged at Taloja Central Jail. KKM member Jyoti Jagtap is incarcerated at Byculla jail with Ms. Bharadwaj and Ms. Sen.