Former Delhi University (DU) professor G N Saibaba, who is serving a life sentence at the Nagpur Central Jail, has threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike in protest if the CCTV camera installed in front of his cell, which allegedly captures footage of the toilet and bathing area, is not removed.
His wife Vasantha Kumari and brother G Ramadevudu wrote to the Maharashtra Home Minister on May 14 seeking immediate removal of the CCTV camera and “provide him privacy, dignity”.
Saibaba is 90% disabled and wheelchair-bound. He also suffers from a range of health issues.
As per the letter, a wide-angle CCTV camera was installed on May 10 in front of the egg-shaped ‘anda’ cell, where Saibaba is kept. The camera can allegedly capture footages of the entire cell, including the toilet and bathing areas, which is a violation of the inmate’s right to privacy. Due to the presence of the camera, Saibaba cannot use the toilet, take a bath, or change clothes, the letter said.
In their letter, Kumari and Ramadevudu wrote, “On Tuesday (10.05.2022), the jail authorities fixed a wide-angle CCTV camera in front of his anda cell that can capture video of the entire cell including, toilet seat, bathing place, and everything in the small cell. So, he cannot use the toilet for urinals or cannot even take a bath before the camera, as the camera records video of everything 24×7 hours. Now how can Dr G N Saibaba live in these circumstances?”
The letter added, “This 24-hour camera surveillance is a clear violation of our fundamental right to privacy, life, and liberty. It is intimidation, insult, and violation of his bodily integrity. Prisoners convicted or otherwise are entitled to all constitutional rights except the right to mobility and a few others. Under these strain conditions, he has decided to go on a hunger strike indefinitely till death or the camera is removed, and the responsible prison administrators apologize for knowingly and brutally violating natural body rights and the rights provided by the constitution.”
Saibaba was sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Gadchiroli in 2007 under the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged Maoist links. His appeal against ruling is pending before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.
The letter also alleged that Saibaba’s counsel Akash Sorde had taken a plastic water bottle for him, which the prison authorities denied to give to the disabled inmate. It said that the authorities placed a steel thermos beside Saibaba’s cot and took photographs, and added that he is the only one in the Anda cell who does not have a water bottle amid extreme heat.The letter further explained that his hands are not working due to the damage to his shoulder muscle, and hence, he cannot lift the steel thermos. He also cannot go and get water by himself since he is a physically challenged person, it said.
Listing Saibaba’s health problems, his wife and brother also urged for a proper diagnosis of his condition and medical treatment.They also requested parole for the former professor.
The letter further said that the family does not think Saibaba should go on a hunger strike given his health condition, which could put his life at risk, and urged state Home Minister to resolve the matter.
However, refuting the allegations, DIG Prisons (eastern region) told the Times of India that upholding the dignity of a prisoner as a human being was the authorities’ foremost aim. She said the CCTV cameras were installed and upgraded to ensure attendants were looking after Saibaba as his health is a “sensitive issue”.