By Arun Srivastava
Fr Stan Swamy will no more be present to move a bail petition and bother the judges to spare their precious time to listen to his sufferings. He is a liberated soul. It is for the Director of the NIA to undertake some extra amount of pain to locate his soul, whether it is in hell or heaven, to produce him before the court for being convicted for the crime he never committed in his life.
One thing is for sure that in his death the truth and the criminal justice system of the country have become the worst victims. It is widely known that he was framed under a conspiracy hatched out by the NIA in connivance with top leaders of the country, but strange enough, it is beyond imagination, how could this machination evade the eyes and ears of judicial system or the judges. How could the gentlemen sitting on the bench believe all the allegations and charges levelled against him and took it as Holy Brahma’s edict.
It pains to think how could the legal system, the judiciary be so insensitive and lack perception not to realise the physical abuses, pain and agony Stan was subjected to by the NIA. It is widely perceived that the people attached to legal profession possess high order of IQ. But it is really sad that they could not make out the difference between truth and lies. It has been widely known from the beginning that the NIA has been telling lies and fabricating false charges. Sitting on the bench does not mean that the individual should keep aside his sensibilities and subscribe to the lies being put forward by the vested interest.
The entire world knew that Stan was implicated in false and fabricated charges except the judiciary. Stan is not the only person who became the victim of careless attitude of the judiciary, there are number of intellectuals and academics who are awaiting their death due to the averseness of the judicial system. IN fact almost all the accused persons implicated by the NIA in Koregaon case are awaiting the day of their eternal liberty and emancipation.
Stan’s case was raised not only by Mary Lawlor, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, it was shared by Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, who said the European Union had been raising the case of Fr. Stan Swamy “repeatedly” with the Indian authorities. But the Indian rulers were so obsessed with their mission that they preferred to ignore his views. Lawlor had observed; “The news from India today is devastating. Human Rights Defender and Jesuit priest Fr. Stan Swamy has died in custody, nine months after his arrest on false charges of terrorism. Jailing Human Rights Defenders is inexcusable”. Only on Sunday she had expressed concern about the deteriorating health condition of Fr. Stan Swamy. She had described the charges against the Jesuit priest as “unfounded”.
Justice Shinde of the Bombay HC who was to hear the bail application on Monday observed; “We are shocked…we have no words to express. We are sorry to know that despite your (the hospital’s) best efforts, Father Stan Swamy is not with us”. Swamy had physical problems was known to the judiciary. The day he was produced before the special court in Mumbai for the first time, his legal team submitted that he could not even sign the vakalatnama, as his hands shook due to Parkinson’s disease. Eventually, his thumb impression was taken.
After Stan’s death the issues of conspiracy and institutional failure are being raised in a strong manner. Can we hope that the judges would suomoto order a judicial probe into the reason of his death. No doubt his death is wrapped in deep mystery. Who was interested in his death? Why he was not granted bail? Why the NIA every time objected to his bail? There are lots of questions that owe explnations from the authorities.
A group of Nobel laureates, European Union parliamentarians and human rights activists had demanded the release of Fr Stan Swamy and the rest of the prisoners who were arrested in Bhima Koregaon Case. The lies of NIA were exposed on many occasions. In fact in February this year compelling evidence emerged to discredit the letters that form the foundation of the case by the National Investigation Agency. But shockingly the judiciary did not take cognisance of that. They also said; “While we grieve at the passing away of Father Stan Swamy, we unequivocally hold the negligent jails, the indifferent courts, and the malicious investigating agencies firmly responsible for his unfortunate death,” the statement said.
The 84-year-old Jesuit priest had been arrested in October for being part of a conspiracy to instigate caste violence in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018. The death of 84-year-old Father brings to an end a stark tale of injustice that has left India’s justice system diminished. The RSS and BJP also described Stan as an Urban Naxal and Maoist activist. They charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and also implicated him as a conspirator in the Bhima Koregaon case.
What a paradox the person who fought for the rights of the tribals and opposed usurping of their lands and properties by the corporate houses, was charged with being involved in a conspiracy to destabilise the Modi government which NIA could never prove the judiciary.
He was aware of the fact that NIA will kill him inside the jail. In his last appearance, via video-conference, before Bombay High Court on May 21 he described how his stint in Taloja jail had further weakened his already ravaged body. “I will probably die here, very shortly if things go on as it is”, he said, asking to be allowed to return to Ranchi on medical bail. Really surprisingly the Bombay High Court did not find time to begin hearing the second of Swamy’s bail pleas filed on merit. During his nine months of incarceration, till his death, the ailing activist came up against the heavy hand of the state, an unresponsive judiciary and a broken prison system.
NIA’s design was manifest in its unwillingness to offer him even a sipper and a straw as Parkinson’s disease had made it impossible for him to drink water from a glass. The court adjourned the case for three weeks. NIA opposed four bail pleas that Swamy filed, first in the special NIA court, and later in Bombay High Court. When Swamy asked the special court for bail on the grounds that an overcrowded prison would make him more vulnerable to the coronavirus, the NIA replied that “the accused under the garb of the current situation on account of the global pandemic Covid-19, is trying to take an undue benefit of the situation…” And yet, in all these months, the NIA did not seek a day’s custody to interrogate Swamy.
A statement by family members and friends of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case has described the death of Father Stan Swamy “an institutional murder” and said that they fear the health and lives of others lodged in jail. They said “This is not a natural death, but the institutional murder of a gentle soul, committed by an inhuman state. Having spent his life amongst the Adivasis in Jharkhand, fighting for their right to resources and lands, Father Stan did not deserve to die in this manner, far from his beloved Jharkhand, falsely imprisoned by a vindictive state,” the statement says.
Since apprehensions have been expressed of a possible murder, it is in the interest of the credibility of the judiciary that it must order a probe. People nurse the view that other intellectuals and academics who are in prison for nearly two years may face the fate of Swamy. Many of them above the age of 60, have chronic ailments. So far, only 81-year-old Varavara Rao has been granted bail on medical grounds that is too for only six months.
Their ordeal must end immediately. The judiciary must grant bails to intellectuals and academics Hany Babu, Sudha Bharadwaj, Sudhir Dhawale, Arun Ferreira, Surendra Gadling, Ramesh Gaichor, Vernon Gonsalves, Sagar Gorkhe, Jyoti Jagtap, Gautam Navlakha, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Anand Teltumbde and Rona Wilson. The NIA has been investigating the cases against them for months. Now the judiciary must bring to an end the dirty game of NIA. The only tenable reason for keeping them in jails is, the RSS and BJP desires to discredit and break the moral of the secular and democratic forces and individuals. These people seek justice for India’s most marginalised citizens through the rights granted to them by the Indian Constitution.
It was for the courts to decide if Swamy was really guilty of the grave charges he was held in jail. It must order a probe to unearth the truth. It was for the NIA to prove its case against him. Narendra Modi and his lieutenant have become suspect in the eyes of the people. It is a known fact that Modi government had abruptly transferred the case to the NIA as soon as the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra declared its intention to review it. Question arises why Modi transferred the case to NIA? Incidentally Congress and NCP had even publicly objected to Uddhav’s decision to give consent to the NIA to take over the case.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that judiciary, especially the lower courts have been flouting the Supreme Court’s dictum of bail as ‘rule’ and jail as ‘exception’. If this has been followed then probably Stan would not have died. Former justice Madan B. Lokur rightly observed that Swamy’s death was ‘very unfortunate and tragic’. It is irony that SC’s dictum is breached more than honoured by the lower courts, as was evident in the case of Father Stan Swamy. A law cannot really be classified as a “law” unless it imbibes within itself the ideals of justice and equity. Laws must be clear and accessible and the people at least ought to know what the laws are. (IPA Service)