The lawyer of former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who is serving a life sentence for alleged links to Maoists, on Thursday claimed that authorities at the Nagpur Central Jail refused to accept certain essential items that he brought for his client. The items included woolen caps and stationary.
Saibaba has 90% disability from a post-polio paralytic condition, and is a wheelchair user. His lawyer Aakash Sorde wrote a letter to the jail’s Superintendent Anup Kumre, in which he accused the authorities of being “inhuman and illogical”.
Sorde said in his letter that he went to the prison on Thursday afternoon with a complete list of things to be handed over to Saibaba, but the staff refused to accept the materials. The lawyer said that the materials did not pose any security threat or create any danger of the transmission of the coronavirus.
He added that the jail authorities ticked certain items on the list and crossed others. “The items that your officers have rejected form essential medical necessities, stationary for writing and material required for intellectual pursuits,” Sorde said.
“You for no conceivable reasons even refused to accept blank white seal-packed 200 pages, notepad, Edition of India Today magazine all of which in wildest of imagination can be used at best for writing and worst for littering or making paper planes. Here in this case, my client being a scholar and noted intellectual, am sure would have used the same for taking notes or writing letters which you meticulously scan and sensor when necessary, before they go out. In any case they posed no security threat.”— GN Saibaba's lawyer Aakash Sorde
Sorde told the Nagpur jail superintendent that the staff even refused to accept warm caps, a handkerchief, towel, napkin, T-shirt, a medical hand weight that Saibaba needs for physiotherapy and shampoo. “Given the bone chilling cold that whole of Nagpur is facing at the moment, I fail to understand how else do you expect my client to save himself from cold,” he said. Saibaba is being kept in the anda cell.
The lawyer also reminded the jail superintendent that the items that his client requests were pre-approved by him. “He draws two handwritten copies of the list, places one before you, seeks your permission and only after you show your readiness to accept the material, he sends me the second copy,” Sorde said.
The lawyer said that the way the jail authorities humiliated him was unbearable. “To this day, I kept on religiously bringing and giving you necessities for a 90% paralyzed inmate, ignoring the treatment meted out to me,” Sorde said. “However I now call it quits.”
He added: “I however put you to notice on instruction of the wife of Professor G N Saibaba, that shall my client suffer any health hazard or deterioration or denial of any fundamental requirement, you in person shall be held responsible for damages and sued in appropriate court of law for appropriate action, consequences whereof, shall be your own did.”
Sorde told Scroll.in that he had emailed this letter to the jail superintendent, who was present when officials refused to accept the materials from him. The advocate was asked to leave the physical copy of the letter on a box outside the prison.
In July, disability rights organisation National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled sought the National Human Rights Commission’s help to move Saibaba to a medical facility. Saibaba had filed a bail plea before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court citing his deteriorating health, especially given the coronavirus pandemic.
United Nations’ human rights experts had in 2019 called on the Indian government to immediately release Saibaba. The officials had said that Saibaba has been detained in “inadequate conditions of so-called ‘anda cells’, with no windows, extreme temperatures and inaccessible facilities”. The experts had added that they had contacted the Indian government several times since June 2018 to raise the matter of Saibaba’s detention and lack of facilities, but had not received any reply.
The denial of essentials to undertrials has evoked outrage across the country. Similar treatment has been meted out to the academics and activists jailed in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Earlier this month, the Maharashtra government had ordered an inquiry into Taloja Jail authorities’ refusal to accept a package containing 70-year-old activist Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles.
Activist Stan Swamy, who has been arrested in the same case, had also struggled to get a straw and sipper in jail. The 83-year-old tribal rights activist suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
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. 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.