The lawyer of tribal rights activist Stan Swamy said that the 84-year-old Jesuit priest, who died in custody on Sunday, had not been questioned even once since he was put in jail in Mumbai, The News Minute reported on Wednesday.
“There was interrogation only before his arrest but not a single day after,” Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai told The News Minute. “If they had any further questions, they could have gone for custodial interrogation but they clearly did not have anything else to ask him.”
Accused in the case related to the violence in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2017, Swamy was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in October 2020. He was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Apart from other ailments, Swamy suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological condition. He had also contracted Covid-19 when he was hospitalised.
On May 21, the Jesuit priest urged the Bombay High Court that he should be allowed to go back to Ranchi, his hometown, as his condition had deteriorated to a point that he could not even do basic tasks like eating and bathing by himself. He was put on ventilator support after suffering a cardiac arrest on July 4.
Desai said that the National Investigation Agency kept opposing the 84-year-old activist’s bail because he was a “dangerous person” as he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“They kept saying he was some mastermind,” the lawyer told The News Minute on Wednesday. “NIA blindly opposes every bail. They even opposed a sipper [that Swamy needed due to his health condition].”
Desai also alleged that the National Investigation Agency had planted evidence on the computers of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, reported The News Minute.
A new report by a United States-based digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting on Tuesday revealed that advocate Surendra Gadling’s computer was hacked to plant evidence in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case.
In February, the same firm found that activist Rona Wilson’s computer was hacked using malicious software to plant 10 letters, which the Pune Police and the National Investigation Agency used as primary evidence in the chargesheet they filed in the Bhima Koregaon case. A follow-up report by the Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm in April revealed further evidence that 22 incriminating letters were planted in Wilson’s laptop.
On July 5, the day Swamy died, Desai had called for a post-mortem examination of the activist’s body. The lawyer had then asked why the National Investigation Agency had not sought Swamy’s custody even for a single day, reported India Today.
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On Taloja jail and hospitalisation
Desai claimed that Taloja jail, where the activist was held in custody, did not have attendants and nurses, which is against prison rules. He added that the inmates help each other when someone falls sick.
“While the inmates comply, they are not trained,” the lawyer told The News Minute. “While every central prison is required to have a hospital, in Taloja, there is no facility for blood tests.”
The lawyer also pointed out that there were not enough doctors for the 3,251 inmates of the prison. Desai said there were three Ayurvedic doctors in the Taloja prison hospital.
“They just gave him some strong antibiotics and that was the main treatment given to Stan Swamy,” Desai told The News Minute.
The lawyer also alleged that the National Investigation Agency had intervened in the matter of Swamy’s hospitalisation even though that decision lies with the prison authorities. “The investigation agency comes into the picture only when it comes to granting bail, not when it comes to giving treatment to a prisoner either inside or outside the prison,” Desai said.
Desai said that he will continue his demand of a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to Swamy’s death. He also said that he will continue to pursue bail for the other 15 accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Several politicians, activists and human rights organisations have blamed the Narendra Modi-led government for Swamy’s death. The family and friends of the 15 others arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case called the tribal rights activist’s death an “institutional murder”.
On Tuesday, 10 Opposition leaders wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind demanding action against those responsible for foisting false cases on the activist.
The Centre has, however, refuted the charges saying that Swamy was arrested and detained by the National Investigation Agency under due process of law.