Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy, the oldest defendant in the Elgaar Parishad terrorism case at 84, is on a ventilator in Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital.
The elderly Jesuit, better known as Stan Swamy, had filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court last week challenging the applicability of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) under which he and 15 others have been charged.
The bail plea of Swamy, who has been in custody since October 2020, is scheduled to be heard on Monday.
Joseph Xavier, director of the Jesuits’ Indian Social Institute in Bangalore, said Swamy was waiting for the court’s orders on his plea for extension of bail and looked “disoriented and agitated” on Saturday evening.
“On early July 4 morning, his heart rate was falling and he was put on a ventilator. Twice in the morning, the hospital administered CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and revived the heartbeat,” Xavier said.
UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor tweeted: “Horrible news to learn that Indian HRD Fr. Stan Swamy is in very serious condition & was put on a ventilator…. He’s spent 9 months in jail on unfounded charges. I’m deeply saddened & expect that every possible specialist treatment will be provided to him.”
On Sunday evening, the National Human Rights Commission directed the Maharashtra chief secretary to “ensure that every possible efforts are made in providing him (Swamy) proper medical care and treatment as part of life-saving measures and protection of his basic human rights”.
Swamy has Parkinson’s and was detected with Covid after being moved to the hospital in May. The Jesuits are paying for his treatment.
He lost hearing in both ears while in jail, and he suffers from sharp abdominal pains as well as lumbar spondylosis. Swamy has been in the ICU since last month, and is currently being treated for a heart ailment, a source said.
Swamy’s writ petition challenges Section 43D(5) of the UAPA as unconstitutional as it imposes a de facto ban on the grant of bail. His plea also challenges the use of the term “front organisation” and contends that not only is it not backed by law but it also violates Articles 14 (right to equality), 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
Swamy has been charged with channelling funds through the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee, which the National Investigation Agency has claimed is a front of the banned CPI Maoist.
Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai told The Telegraph on Sunday: “My focus tomorrow is for bail to allow his treatment in the (Holy Family) hospital as even if he is released, he is in no position to go anywhere….”
Telugu litterateur Varavara Rao, 80, was granted medical bail in the case in February after a severe urinary infection which, his lawyers have said, he contracted because of poor treatment in jail. He has shown signs of memory loss and tested positive for Covid last year.
Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu M.T. too was shifted to hospital from the Taloja prison in Mumbai after contracting Covid and a severe eye infection.
The Supreme Court’s directives to reduce inmates during Covid have not had any bearing on bail pleas of the UAPA accused, academics, activists and lawyers have said.
The Ranchi-based Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), an umbrella organisation of activists and NGOs, said in a statement: “The NIA and the central government are solely responsible for the sufferings of this elderly person and the current state of affairs…. Also, denying bail to an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension.
“Had the investigating agencies and the court taken a humanitarian approach, Stan would not have to go through this suffering.”