People hold posters next to candles outside the church holding memorial mass for rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, in Mumbai on July 6. He was detained for nine months under anti-terrorism laws and died on July 5 ahead of a bail hearing (AFP)
People hold posters next to candles outside the church holding memorial mass for rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, in Mumbai on July 6. He was detained for nine months under anti-terrorism laws and died on July 5 ahead of a bail hearing (AFP)

Had great respect for Stan Swamy’s work, says high court at his ‘bail hearing’

Stan Swamy, the country’s oldest prisoner charged under UAPA, died after a heart attack on July 5, just a week after he was shifted out of Taloja jail to a private hospital. His bail plea came up for hearing on Monday.
By K A Y Dodhiya, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2021 07:45 PM IST

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court said it had dealt with the medical bail applications of Elgar Parishad accused including Stan Swamy, Varavara Rao and Hany Babu on humane considerations by acceding to their request to be transferred to private hospitals of their choice despite vehement opposition from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and state prison authorities.

The two-judge bench comprising justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar, which was scheduled to hear Stan Swamy bail plea on medical grounds, also observed that they had made it a point to attend the online funeral service for the 84-year-old because they had great respect for the work of the tribal rights activist, who the court described as a wonderful person.

The judges said the service was very gracious and while the legal matter against Stan Swamy was a different issue, it did not expect the priest’s death before their ruling on his bail application.

Stan Swamy died after a heart attack on July 5, just a week after he was shifted out of Taloja jail to the Holy Family hospital in Bandra on May 28 on the high court’s order.

Father Stan Swamy, as the Jesuit priest was popularly referred to, was the country’s oldest prisoner charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA). The NIA alleged that he was involved in an alleged Maoist conspiracy that led to caste clashes near the Bhima Koregaon village four years ago. The priest was being held at Taloja jail since October last year.

A magisterial inquiry is being held into the death since he died while in custody.

The judges also referred to the outrage directed at the high court and the NIA for Stan Swamy’s continued custody in Taloja jail since October last year, the bench said: “We ensured that we remained fair while passing orders on Swamy’s medical bail application, as well as the applications filed by the other co-accused in the Elgar Parishad case like P Varavara Rao and Hany Babu by permitting them to be shifted to the hospital of their choice, though there was vehement opposition.”

The court also noted that the bench had been quick to accede to the request for shifting Fr Swamy on May 28 when senior lawyer Mihir Desai, who was representing Swamy in the high court, sought the permission and even thereafter when extension of his stay at the hospital was sought.

Also Read: The life and death of Father Stan Swamy

“Outside, we are speechless. Only you (Desai) can clarify this. You have said on record that you have no grievance with this court in the matter,” observed the bench.

On Monday, Desai also sought permission for Father Frazer Mascarenhas to participate in the magisterial inquiry into the cause of Fr Swamy’s death. Desai submitted that the process for such inquiries mandated the participation of family members and since Fr Mascarenhas was permitted by the high court to meet Fr Swamy while he was at Holy Family hospital, he should be allowed to participate in the inquiry as well.

The NIA, through advocate Sandesh Patil, opposed the continuation of Swamy’s medical bail plea and said the issues pertaining to the inquiry could not be taken up in the same application. The court said it would consider the request of Swamy’s counsel on Friday, July 23.

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