New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has asked for an ‘action taken’ report from the Taloja jail superintendent in connection with allegations that 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy was denied medical facilities.
The Telegraph has reported that NHRC assistant registrar of law, Subhra Tyagi, sent the email to jail authorities on June 26.
The email was sent after Father Santhanam A., a Jesuit lawyer from Tamil Nadu, moved NHRC seeking its attention in the case. In his May plea, he had said that an Ayurveda doctor was then treating the severely ailing activist, in spite of the fact that he had showed several symptoms of COVID-19.
Stan Swamy, incarcerated since October 2020 over what the NIA claims are his connections to the Elgar Parishad case, also suffers from Parkinson’s and has difficulty in even sipping water from a glass.
The lawyer had said most jail staff and several prisoners, many of whom were undertrial, had tested positive for COVID-19. He also alleged that the activist was vaccinated in spite of having a fever, against medical protocol.
Shortly afterwards, Stan Swamy tested positive for COVID-19. He was then shifted to the Holy Family Hospital following an order by the Bombay high court and was recently shifted to the intensive care unit because his medical condition grew serious. The high court, in the meantime, also extended his stay at the hospital.
When Swamy was produced before the Bombay high court from the prison via video-conferencing, he told the court that his mental and physical health had declined steadily in the jail.
He had refused to get admitted to the JJ Hospital, saying he had been there twice earlier but had found no relief and would “rather die in prison than go to JJ Hospital” and would prefer to “be with his own.”
Writing on the sub-par medical facilities at Taloja Jail – where the 16 activists and lawyers accused by the NIA in the Elgar Parishad case are being held – The Wire‘s Sukanya Shantha had noted that the jail has a capacity to house 2,124 people but currently has more than 2,700, making COVID-19 protocols like social distancing impossible to follow.
Her report further highlighted basic inadequacies when it came to medical care:
“And to make things worse, Taloja prison, like most other prisons in the state, lacks basic medical facilities. Three Ayurvedic doctors have been handling healthcare in the prison for the longest time. Each time someone among those arrested in the Elgar Parishad case has fallen ill, they have had to move Bombay high court to ensure adequate treatment is made available to them.”