The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to produce the latest medical report of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, an accused in the Elgar-Parishad Maoists links case, who is is currently lodged at the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai.
Her daughter Maaysha Singh had approached the high court seeking interim bail for Sudha Bharadwaj on medical grounds, given the activist’s co-morbidities and the risk of her contracting COVID-19 while in prison.
Sudha Bharadwaj’s counsel Yug Chaudhry told a bench of Justices KK Tated and Abhay Ahuja that Bhardwaj had severe co-morbidities.
She suffered from diabetes, heart disease, and had a history of tuberculosis, he said.
Mr Chaudhry said Sudha Bharadwaj was kept in a ward of the prison with 50 other women under extremely unsanitary conditions, and with just three toilets for all of them.
“The ward where she is lodged is a literal death trap,” Mr Chaudhry claimed.
The state’s counsel, Jayesh Yagnik, told the bench that Bharadwaj was already scheduled to be taken to Mumbai’s JJ Hospital for a checkup on Thursday evening.
He said Sudha Bharadwaj was tested for COVID-19 on two previous occasions and her reports were negative.
The HC directed Mr Yagnik to produce Sudha Bharadwaj’s report from the checkup at the state-run J J Hospital before the court by May 17.
Mr Chaudhry also claimed that he and Sudha Bharadwaj’s family had made 18 calls to the Byculla prison in the past few days, but the prison warden had refused to come on the line.
“He didn’t speak to us, but he spoke to the press. He told the press that Sudha Bharadwaj, a respected lawyer and activist, was making up stories, lying about her health,” Mr Chaudhry alleged.
He insisted that the state be directed to file a reply responding to the issues raised in the plea on the unsanitary conditions in the prison and the impossibility of social distancing there.
The bench, however, said the state was working with just 15 per cent staff and could not be expected to file such reply immediately.
The NIA’s counsel, Sandesh Patil, opposed the bail plea and told the HC that there was “no urgency” in the case.
The HC will hear the bail plea next on May 21.
According to police, some activists allegedly made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district the next day.
The police alleged the event was “backed” by Maoists.
Sudha Bharadwaj and other activists were initially charged by the Pune police after violence erupted at Koregaon Bhima.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) later took over the probe into the case.
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