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Elgar Case: Medical Treatment, Straw, Mosquito Nets, Books...Things Accused Sought in Jail

Father Stan Swamy died. But there were so many applications filed by the accused, lamenting lack of facilities in prisons.
mNPRD to Send Sipper to Taloja Jail for Stan Swamy

Image Courtesy: PTI

Mumbai:  The Supreme Court order permitting jailed activist Gautam Navlakha to be kept under house arrest for a month has brought to the fore several applications filed by the accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case lamenting lack of facilities in jail and denial of access to the same.

Besides seeking medical treatment, the accused in the case have time and again approached courts for permission to get books, chairs,drinking straw, spectacles and mosquito nets inside the prison.

In November 2020, accused Stan Swamy had filed an application before a special court here seeking straw and sipper at the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai where he is lodged.

In his plea, Swamy had said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized it from him and he was unable to lift a glass due to Parkinson's disease.

The NIA, in its reply, however, said it had not seized any straw and sipper glass from Swamy. Later, jail authorities provided him with a
straw and sipper.

Swamy died in July 2021 at a private hospital here while he was in judicial custody.

In December 2020, Navlakha's partner Sahba Husain said the former's spectacles were stolen in jail and when his family sent him a new pair, the jail authorities refused to accept them.

The high court had later criticised the jail authorities and said all these are human considerations.

The jail authorities later accepted the pair of spectacles sent by Navlakha's family.

In 2020, lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj had filed an application before the special court claiming she was not being allowed access to books. She said when books were sent for her, the Superintendent at Mumbai's Byculla Jail, where she was lodged, had refused to receive them for her.

The special court had allowed her plea to have access to five books per month from outside prison, while directing the jail superintendent to "carefully examine" the books to ensure they did not contain any "objectionable material".

The court had also said beyond the prescribed parameters to deem a book's content "objectionable", including whether it is vulgar, obscene or preaches violence, a superintendent did not have powers to withhold a book from a detainee.

In April this year, Navlakha's lawyer Yug Chaudhary had informed the Bombay High Court that prison authorities had refused to hand over a book by English author P G Wodehouse.

During the arguments in the high court on Navlakha's plea seeking to be kept under house arrest, Chaudhary had said the condition of the prison was very poor.

The HC had then said the prison authorities' action refusing Wodehouse's book was comical.

Navlakha and co-accused Sagar Gorkhe had filed applications in the special court seeking permission to have mosquito nets inside the prison. This was opposed by Taloja jail authorities citing security concerns.

The court did not allow the pleas of Navlakha and Gorkhe, butdirected the jail superintendent to take "all necessary precautions against mosquitoes, conduct fumigation, allow inmates to use
repellents, ointments and incense sticks".

Navlakha had also filed another application in the special court seeking permission to make phone/video calls to his kin.

The prison authorities had contended that the facility started during the COVID-19 pandemic, but could not be permitted to undertrials on a regular basis.

The court rejected Navlakha's plea, following which he filed an appeal in the high court.

Surendra Gadling, another accused in the case, had filed an application seeking a chair and table citing medical ailments, claiming he was he was unable to squat on the floor for long without developing pain in his back and neck.

Gadling had said he needed the table and chair as he had to study a lot since he was representing himself in the case. Prison authorities had opposed this plea as well citing security risks.

The court agreed with Gadling's contention, observing that the allegations he has to defend himself against are serious and there are a large number of documents he needs to study for hours together. Gadling was allowed a chair and table at his cost.

Gadling had also sought permission to have his own shaving kit, which was opposed by the prison authorities. The court agreed with the prison authorities that it would pose danger and rejected the

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