Friends and family members of the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case accused, who are lodged in jails in and around Mumbai, on Saturday sought their release on interim bail in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that the prisons lacked medical facilities to deal with the virus. The friends and relatives of 16 accused, including Hany Babu, Stan Swamy and Sudha Bharadwaj, made the demand during a virtual press conference.
While the male accused in the case are lodged in Navi Mumbai's Taloja jail, the women accused are kept in Bayculla prison of central Mumbai. Their kin said there was no planning or infrastructure in Taloja and Byculla jails to tackle the pandemic situation, which is why they should be granted interim bail.
Jenny Rowena, wife of Hany Babu, said the situation in jails is very dangerous. "There is no plan in place. Even the jail staffers are getting infected with coronavirus. Jail hospitals don't have doctors or trained staff to take care of the patients," she said.
"It seems there is no value to life if you are in a prison. A serious note should be taken and they (accused) should be temporarily released on bail," she said. Rowena had earlier said that Hany Babu had acute eye infection and was not getting proper medical treatment at the jail.
During the press conference, she reiterated that Babu cannot see properly and suffers from double vision in one eye. Swamy's friend Father Joe Xavier said Swamy's sample was taken for COVID-19 testing in October last year.
But now, although he has cough and fever, the jail authorities are not getting him tested for the virus, he alleged. He said during their last telephonic conversation, Swamy had told him that he was "fragile" and feeling helpless.
Maaysha, daughter of Sudha Bharadwaj, said her mother has co-morbidity. "Bharadwaj already had health issues prior to her arrest and she has developed a number of problems in prison, due to the unhygienic livingconditions there," she said.
She is "extremely vulnerable" to the virus, her daughter added. Minal Gadling, wife of Surendra Gadling, alleged that her husband has been denied new spectacles by jail authorities for months.
On Wednesday, the family members of these accused sent a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray, seeking their release from prisons in view of the pandemic. The Elgar Parishad case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at a conclave held in Pune city on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district.
Pune Police claimed that the conclave was backed by Maoists. The case was later taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Activist Varavara Rao, also an accused in the case, has been granted bail by Bombay High Court earlier.