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Sibal Says Jailed Activist Navlakha Needs Colon Cancer Tests, SC Orders Shifting to Jaslok

Gautam Navlakha is over 70 ..."is he a threat to the security of the nation?" the senior advocate asked the court.
Gautam Navlakha

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Taloja jail superintendent to immediately shift  Gautam Navlakha, incarcerated in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, to Mumbai's Jaslok hospital for treatment, after the activist's counsel said he needs to be tested for colon cancer.

Underlining that receiving medical treatment is a fundamental right, a bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy also allowed Navlakha's partner Sahba Husain and sister to meet him in the hospital.

"Having heard the counsel for parties, we are of the view that receiving medical treatment would be a fundamental right. We direct that the petitioner be taken immediately for thorough medical check-up.

"Accordingly, we direct Superintendent Taloja jail to take the petitioner to Jaslok hospital so that he is able to undergo requisite medical check-up and receive treatment. We make it clear that the petitioner will remain in police custody," the bench said.

It also directed the hospital authorities to submit a report to the SC about the check-up.

The 70-year-old activist has appealed the apex court against the April 26 order of the Bombay High Court dismissing his plea for house arrest over apprehensions of lack of adequate medical and other basic facilities in Taloja jail near Mumbai where he is lodged.

As the hearing commenced, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Navlakha, submitted the activist is suffering from serious ailments and needs urgent medical attention.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for anti-terror probe agency NIA, said the prayer is to direct Taloja jail superintendent to take him for a dental check-up, skin allergy and colonoscopy at a hospital.

"I don't know if skin allergy and dental issues are serious enough. He need not be placed under house arrest for skin allergy and dental check-up," Mehta said.

Forget perception created by articles and speeches, the solicitor general told the court and add that Navlakha is involved in naxalite activities and those related to offences under anti-terror law UAPA.

Sibal interjected, asking "What perception?". The senior lawyer went on to say that Navlakha is over 70. "Is he a threat to the security of the nation?" he asked.

The apex court said it can direct Navlakha to be taken for a medical check-up today itself to the hospital and receive the treatment.

The bench has posted the matter for resumed hearing on October 21.

On September 27, the top court had sought responses of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the state of Maharashtra to Navlakha's plea that he be placed under house arrest instead of judicial custody in the Elgar Parishad case in which several Left leaning activists and intellectuals are in jail for alleged Maoist links.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

The Pune police had claimed the conclave was organised by people with Maoist links. The NIA later took over the probe.

The high court had said Navlakha's apprehensions about lack of medical aid and inadequate basic facilities at the Taloja prison, where he is currently lodged as an undertrial, were "ill-founded".

The apex court had earlier granted bail to 82-year-old activist P Varavara Rao in the case.

Navlakha had told the high court the Taloja prison is overcrowded, the toilets dirty and that his medical condition deteriorated during his incarceration there.

"The case of the petitioner does not fit in any of the criteria (provided for by SC). The apprehension of the petitioner that he will not be provided medical aid and his life will be miserable in unhygienic conditions and atmosphere of the prison seems to be ill-founded," the high court had said.

Navlakha had approached the high court contending the Taloja prison had poor facilities. He had claimed he was denied a chair, a pair of slippers, his spectacles, and a PG Wodehouse book by the prison superintendent.

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