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FPJ Legal | Relatives file petition challenging transfer of Elgar Parishad case accused from Taloja to other prisons in Maharashtra

08:30 PM Aug 03, 2021 | Urvi Mahajani

Mumbai: Claiming that they are being victimised for demanding their rights, relatives of accused in Elgar Parishad case have approached the Bombay High Court challenging their transfer from Central Prison Taloja to any other prison in the State.

Anand Teltumde’s wife Rama, Surendra Gadling’s wife Minal and Sudhir Dhawale’s friend Sharad Gaikwad have filed a petition seeking quashing three orders issued by the special court transferring ten accused to different prisons in the state.

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The petition alleges that the transfer orders were issued on April 1, on June 17 and on June 27 this year without following due process of law and giving a hearing to the accused or their relatives.

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Seeking quashing of these orders, the relatives have prayed that the prison authorities be restrained from acting on them till the petition is decided.

Terming the orders as bad in law, the petition states that these orders were passed in an administrative capacity and not a judicial capacity as opportunity was not given to the inmates to argue.

Apart from the present Superintendent of Prison of Taloja Jail, the petition has also added ex-Superintendent Kausthubh Kothalikar as respondent alleging that his conduct was cruel and inhuman towards the accused. The petition alleges that the inmates had made several complaints against Kothalikar for denials of their rights as laid down in prison manuals and hence they were being targeted and separated.

The petition reads: “It is going to have serious repercussions on the defence of the inmates, for the very reason that they are accused of having conspired, they have a right to discuss law, facts with each other and go through the charge sheet which runs in over 20 thousand pages.”

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Citing health reasons, the petition states that the Arthur Road Jail has current overcrowding of 350% whereas Taloja Jail has 150%. “Given pandemic situation, such overcrowding needs to be deprecated and therefore adding in already overcrowded jail could prove to be fatal for the inmates, and therefore also the order being without application of mind and detrimental to health as well, deserves to be quashed and set aside,” adds the petition.

Emphasising on the victimisation of the accused, petition states that recently Gadling was placed in a quarantine ward, with 40 other prisoners. “The situation was such that the water used to drip through the ceiling, wetting the floor. Additionally the toilet and washrooms therein were unused and extremely dirty, using which created extremely unhygienic situation added with strong nauseating odour spread in the complete ward,” reads the petition.

It was only after Gadling informed his wife and the issue became public, that he was removed from the quarantine ward. The petition reads: “After his removal, a plastic sheet came to be placed on the terrace, by public works department and cleaning came to be done.”

Besides, the prison authorities have blocked communication of the inmates with their family members and friends by delaying posting of letters, alleges the petition.

The letters are placed under strict censorship and any part involving complaint against prison administration is made to be scored off by the prisoner himself failing which letter is not posted. The petition further alleges: “In any case, citing paucity of English speaking staff, letters are kept unposted for days together.”

Even the lawyers who volunteered to deliver essential commodities to the accused are made to wait at the gate for several hours and have been humiliated by Kothalikar, alleges the petition.

Of the 16 accused, three women are lodged at Byculla Women’s Prison. The men were lodged at Taloja Central Prison. Dr Varavara Rao is out on interim bail and DU Associate Professor Hany Babu is in the Breach Candy Hospital. Father Stan Swamy, who passed away on July 5, was all lodged in Taloja.

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