Court extends judicial custody of Indian priest Fr Stan till November 6

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Father Stan Swamy. File photo.

The Special Court extended judicial custody of Fr Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old Indian priest for another 14 days. Now he will be under custody till November 6, according to source close to Fr Stan.

On Friday, the special court had rejected Fr Stan’s interim bail plea after the NIA opposed Swamy’s bail plea, saying he was trying to take “advantage of the pandemic” to get out of jail. The Court extended judicial custody of the octogenarian Father Stan till November 6, the source said.

The NIA had arrested Fr Stan Swamy on October 8 from Ranchi, Jharkhand in the Elgar Parishad case. After that the National Investigation Agency has taken him to Mumbai. He had filed an interim bail application on medical grounds, given his age, pre-existing conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court extends judicial custody

Swamy’s lawyer Sharif Shaikh told the court that his client has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And, because of that, he was unable to even sign his vakalatnama when produced before a court, and had to give his thumb impression instead. However, the court, rejected his plea, and extended the judicial custody of Fr Swamy.

NIA opposed Swamy’s bail plea, saying he was trying to take “advantage of the pandemic” to get out of jail. The agency also has used the same argument against others accused in the Elgar Parishad case too. Fr Stan Swamy is the 16th activist whom the NIA has arrested and jailed in the case. The NIA has charged all of them under the stringent ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

UN, Opposition leaders demand Stan’s release

The United Nations and several rights groups have said the detentions are part of a pattern of the government using India’s laws to crack down on dissent. However New Delhi denied this.

“Fr Stan Swamy was charged and detained. We understand that he is still detained, despite being 83 years old, despite being a long-standing respected human rights activist, working particularly on the rights of marginalized groups,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, said on Tuesday.

“So, in our view, this is an example of these laws being used to detain the wrong type of people for the wrong reasons.”

The UAPA has been used to arrest several left-wing activists also in connection with communal riots in Delhi this year. Critics say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been abusing several laws like the one.

Several Indian opposition leaders also called for the release of the elderly priest held on terror charges.

“The charges seem to be preposterous,” said Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from the opposition Congress. “He should be released on bail, even if the government insists on these far-fetched charges.”

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