A total of 109 MCOCA under trials lodged at the Arthur road jail continued their hunger strike for the fifth consecutive day on Friday, protesting against less number of MCOCA courts in the city. Among them 21 also stopped drinking water on Friday and sent messages to their lawyer of not bowing down till the government met their demands.
Meanwhile, on Friday the Bombay High Court appointed the third MCOCA judge in the city, Judge MR Puranik who will also be hearing POTA cases and will be taking charge once the court resumes after Christmas vacation on Monday.
In the legal circles the appointment of Judge Puranik as the Special Judge is seen as a measure, taken by the government in response to under trials going on hunger strike. Legal experts also pointed out that such measures are undertaken only after strong protest are made by the sufferers to project travesty of justice.
Legal sources told Hindustan Times, that in December 2005 around 323 under trials most of whom were foreign nationals and arrested under the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) had also gone on a hunger strike inside the Arthur road jail to demand more special courts for speedy trials.
Public Prosecutor Jitendra Solanki who handles NDPS cases said "Due to the strike which lasted for a week the state government in coordination with the high court had appointed seven NDPS judges," Solanki said.
Protest inside Arthur road jail is not new in the year 2000. Several 1993 serial bomb blast accused now convicts had petitioned in the Bombay High court urging for directions to the court to allow them home food in jail. They had prayed that the State Government notification amending provisions of jail manual to restrict such facilities be struck down. Four years later the high court ordered in their favour which allowed home food to under trials inside jail with the permission of the concerned court.
Some of the blast accused also urged the trial court to allow some sports activities inside the jail. The court directed the prison to allow and provide the under trials with facilities of volleyball, badminton, chess and carom inside the prison. One of the convicts and inmate of Arthur road jail Uttam Potdar said "They enjoy these facilities which keeps their mind fresh and their bodies agile. We are also provided the facility to learn computers in the jail."