The Bombay High Court on Tuesday referred to the refusal of authorities at Mumbai’s Taloja Jail to accept a parcel containing activist Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles, and noted that “humanity is most important”, PTI reported. The court said there was a need to sensitise the prison staff to the needs of inmates. The 70-year-old is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
A bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik said that providing essential items like spectacles to prisoners were “humane considerations”.
“Humanity is most important,” the bench said. “Everything else will follow. Today [Tuesday], we learnt about Navlakha’s spectacles. This is the high time to conduct a workshop for even jail authorities.”
The court added: “Can all these small items be denied? These are all humane considerations.”
Navlakha’s partner Sabha Hussain had on Monday said that his spectacles were stolen in jail on November 27 and he needed a new pair urgently. Hussain added that she sent new spectacles to Navlakha, but the jail authorities refused to accept the parcel upon delivery on December 5.
Hussain said that Navalakha suffered from several ailments and was close to blind without his spectacles. “Yet, he was not permitted to call his home for a replacement until three days later, but even that call proved futile,” Hussain said. “The tall claims made by Indian authorities on jail conditions, in their extradition cases and constitutional directives on the rights of prisoners are alike mocked by this act of deliberate and perverse cruelty.”
Navlakha’s partner also spoke about 83-year-old activist Stan Swamy’s struggle to get a straw and sipper from the Taloja Jail authorities. The tribal rights activist, also under arrest in the Bhima Koregaon case, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and cannot hold a glass.
Swamy had filed an application before a special court on November 6 to get the essential supplies. The National Investigation Agency had sought 20 days to reply to Swamy’s plea. But on the date of the hearing, the agency informed the court that it did not have his straw or sipper and even denied confiscating it.
A huge campaign was then launched by social media users to send sippers and straws to Swamy. Finally, on November 29, Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Chhering Dorje informed the media that Swamy had been given a sipper.
Telugu poet Varavara Rao is another undertrial suffering from an acute medical condition. On November 18, the Bombay High Court had directed Taloja jail authorities to shift him to Nanavati Hospital for 15 days, saying that he was almost on his deathbed.
The NIA took over the investigation in the Bhima Koregaon case from the Pune Police in January. All the accused in the case are booked for allegedly delivering inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial on January 1, 2018.