Fr Stan Swamy, 83, asking court for a straw, sipper cup for last 20 days

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Father Stan Swamy. File photo.

Fr Stan Swamy now will have to wait till at least next Friday for a straw and a sipper cup. The octogenarian priest has been asking the NIA special court for a straw and a sipper cup, and winter clothes, for the last 20 days, as he is a Parkinson’s disease patient. NIA had arrested the 83-year-old tribal rights activist last month over his alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon case.  

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed a reply on the petition of Fr Stan Swamy seeking the return of the straw and sipper confiscated during his arrest, telling a special court in Pune that the agency did not take them.

“Fr Stan Swamy was never taken to NIA custody, so we never had any of his belongings. He was sent to judicial custody straight away, so he has to request to jail authorities. We are not aware if he has made same request to jail authorities,” an NIA official said, requesting anonymity.

NIA special court to hear his case on Dec 4

After the agency’s response, the special court rejected Father Stan Swamy’s application. And the Indian Catholic priest has moved a fresh application seeking permission to use a straw and a sipper and winter clothes inside the jail.

The court has sought the response of the jail authorities and adjourned the matter till December 4.

NIA had arrested Fr Stan Swamy on October 8 from Ranchi, Jharkhand. After that the 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

Earlier, Father Stan 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 the court and had to give his thumb impression instead. However, the court, rejected his plea, and extended the judicial custody of Fr Stan 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 Father 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.

“Father Stan Swamy was charged and detained. We understand that still he is 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.

“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 other left-wing activists 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.

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