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High Court seeks info on steps taken to curb COVID-19 in Byculla jail

Bombay High Court. File

Bombay High Court. File   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

The Bombay High Court on Friday sought information from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Maharashtra government on the measures being implemented in the Byculla women’s jail to ensure physical distancing and curb the spread of COVID-19.

A Division Bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Madhav Jamdar was hearing a criminal appeal filed by advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj (58), an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, challenging a special NIA court’s order rejecting her bail application.

Ms. Bharadwaj was picked up from her house in Faridabad and arrested on August 28, 2018 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the Elgaar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. She was lodged at Yerwada jail in Pune before being moved to Byculla women’s jail.

Ms. Bharadwaj approached the High Court after the special NIA court rejected her interim bail plea on May 29 this year. She sought bail on health grounds and cited the high risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus in prisons.

Her plea said she had co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and a history of pulmonary tuberculosis, making her vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 in Byculla jail, where an inmate tested positive in May.

The plea also mentioned that she had “extremely painful swelling in her joints and a frozen shoulder that restricts her movement”.

The High Court had earlier rejected her bail plea on October 15, 2019. According to the NIA, Ms. Bharadwaj is a member of the CPI(Maoist), a banned outfit, which has entered into a conspiracy to seize political power and overthrow the State. The NIA said the evidence against her is “typed copies of letters, which are neither dated nor signed, and are unverifiable as they were found on electronic devices of the other accused. Nothing has been seized from her devices”.

The NIA said on July 1 that Ms. Bharadwaj was trying to take undue advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to seek bail. The agency said, “The available evidence on record clearly established that Sudha Bharadwaj, along with the other accused, was involved in selecting and encouraging cadres for recruitment in the banned Maoist organisation to go underground in ‘struggle area’.”

Special public prosecutor Prakash Shetty had earlier said Ms. Bharadwaj “is being given the requisite medical attention in jail and need not be given bail”.

High Court seeks info on steps taken to curb COVID-19 in Byculla jail

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:33:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bombay-high-court-seeks-information-about-measures-against-pandemic-at-byculla-jail/article32044519.ece

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