The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to submit a medical report of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is imprisoned in the Byculla women’s jail in Mumbai in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, Bar and Bench reported.
Bharadwaj’s daughter Maaysha Singh had requested the court to grant her interim bail on medical grounds, considering her comorbidities and the risk of contracting the coronavirus in jail, PTI reported.
Bharadwaj’s lawyer, Yug Chaudhry, told the court that she suffers from diabetes and heart disease and also had a history of tuberculosis.
Chaudhry claimed that Bharadwaj was being kept in a prison ward with 50 other women in unsanitary conditions, according to PTI. “The ward where she is lodged is a literal death trap,” he added.
The lawyer also said that Bharadwaj’s family called the Byculla prison 18 times in the last few days but the warden refused to speak to them. “He didn’t speak to us, but he spoke to the press,” Chaudhry said, according to PTI. “He told the press that Bharadwaj, a respected lawyer and activist, was making up stories, lying about her health.”
Sadanand Gaikwad, the superintendent of Byculla jail, had on Friday dismissed reports that Bharadwaj was suffering from body ache and diarrhoea in jail, claiming that these were her “gimmicks” to get bail, The Hindu reported.
Meanwhile, Jayesh Yagnik, the counsel for the Maharashtra government, told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that Bharadwaj was scheduled to undergo a medical checkup at the JJ Hospital in the evening, according to PTI. He added that Bharadwaj had tested negative for the coronavirus twice.
The bench of justices KK Tated and Abhay Ahuja ordered the lawyer to submit Bharadwaj’s report after the medical check-up on May 17. The court will hear her bail petition on May 21.
Several activists and academics have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered the violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.
Only Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao, one of the accused in the case, was granted bail on medical grounds for six months in February by the Bombay High Court.
On Tuesday, the families and friends of activists arrested in the case wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, demanding their immediate release in view of the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As India reports over 20.2 million cases of Covid-19 in beginning of the month, and as news is rife with the healthcare system being overwhelmed, we are increasingly worried about the medical assistance that would be available to the prison inmates should they contract the deadly disease,” they wrote.
The families urged Thackeray to recommend to a committee – constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court – to at least release the undertrials on interim bail.
India has reported more than 3 lakh cases a day every day for the past few weeks, since April 22. On May 1, it hit a new record by crossing the 4-lakh mark, the highest single-day tally by any country in the world. This was surpassed on May 7, when India recorded 4.14 lakh daily cases. Thousands have died every day, but reports allege that the government is severely undercounting Covid-19 deaths.