The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) on Monday petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide reasonable accommodation and assistive aids to jailed tribal rights activist Fr. Stan Swamy who has Parkinson’s disease.
Father Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Catholic priest, has been lodged in Taloja Central Jail, Maharashtra. He was arrested for his alleged role in inciting mob violence in Pune’s Koregaon Bhima in 2018.
He has Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. The condition is recognised as a disability and listed under the Schedule “Specified Disability” in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
The NPRD, in its petition to the chairman of the NHRC, H.L. Dattu, asked to ensure compliance with “rights of prisoners with disabilities as also providing them with reasonable accommodations as mandated by international conventions to which India is a signatory as also domestic laws.”
It asked Swamy to be provided with requisite age and disability appropriate accommodation, assistive aids including straws and sippers, along with human care assistance. It has also requested the NHRC to send a team to inspect the accessibility of the prison premises and the services being provided to Stan Swamy.
The petition further detailed that given the Parkinson’s induced tremor in both hands of Swamy, he has been using a sipper and a straw for the intake of water and fluids. He was carrying these items with him when he was arrested by the National Investigating Agency, which refused to hand those back. Furthermore, the jail authorities also refused to provide Swamy with the assistive items, it said.
“He has trouble eating because of the tremors. He is unable to take bath, bring water or wash clothes on his own. Fr. Stan also has a serious hearing problem and needs hearing aid for both ears. He was operated twice for hernia in the recent past and hence may not be in a position to go through a strenuous schedule as demanded in the jail. He used to take daily steam inhalations too,” the petition read.
The NPRD underlined that the conditions under which Stand Swamy was being held were “violative” of his right to life, dignity, equality, and protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among others.
Citing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and Nelson Mandela Rules on treatment of prisoners, the letter said, “Denial of an extremely essential item for a person with Parkinson’s who has impaired functioning of his hands amounts to “cruelty and inhuman treatment”; is a violation of his dignity; and constitutes torture.”
Earlier, Stan Swamy had approached a special court in Mumbai on November 6 for being provided with a straw and a sipper. The court has asked the NIA to file a reply within November 26.
The NPRD added that in case the provisions, as requested, could not be made available within the jail premises, the Commission should issue directions to immediately shift Swamy to a hospital with adequate facilities.