Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, languishing in jail under UAPA charges in Bhima Koregaon case on Thursday moved to the Bombay High Court, seeking to be placed under house arrest as part of his judicial custody.
The Bhima Koregaon case, strongly criticised for jailing human rights defenders, pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. Sixteen people have been arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
In his plea, 70-year-old Navlakha cited his old age and the need to medically examine a lump on his chest for the request.
“Taloja is sorely lacking in infrastructure and manpower and incapable of caring for ailing and elderly inmates such as the petitioner,” read his plea.
During Thursday’s hearing, Navlakha’s lawyers said the lump in the activist’s chest needed to be medically examined for cancer, reported PTI.
Navlakha is currently lodged in Taloja jail where many inmates have complained medical facilities are poor.
He relied on a Supreme Court observation made in May. The court, while rejecting his default bail plea, had observed that judges were open to order house arrest of an accused.
The house arrest under Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code could be ordered by taking into account criteria like age, health condition and the antecedents of the accused, nature of the crime and the need for other forms of custody, the court had said in its May verdict, The Scroll reported.
During Thursday’s hearing, Advocates Yug Chaudhry and Payoshi Roy, representing Navlakha, said the lump in the activist’s chest needed to be medically examined for cancer.
They told the bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar that the lump developed in March and their counsel should be taken to the Jaslok hospital in Mumbai.
The advocates said that they have written to the Taloja prison authorities, seeking a medical examination, but have not heard back from them. They also said that Navlakha suffers from hypertension that he developed during his imprisonment and many other medical conditions.
Chief Public Prosecutor P Aruna Pai said Navlakha could be treated at the Tata Memorial Hospital.
The bench then asked the prosecution to file its reply within two weeks. It also asked to be informed during the court’s afternoon session if Navlakha can be taken to a private hospital for examining the lump.
Navlakha’s petition came after his co-accused and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy died during his time in jail in July. Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and also contracted the coronavirus infection while in prison, was repeatedly denied bail despite his deteriorating health condition.