Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoists Links case, told the Bombay High Court on Friday that his health deteriorated steadily over the last eight months spent in custody in the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai. Swamy, 84, was produced before a bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade via video-conferencing from the Taloja prison, where he is lodged as an undertrial.
The prison authorities also submitted a medical report from Mumbai’s J J Hospital, where Swamy had been examined earlier this week in compliance with the High Court’s order. The bench read out the report, which stated that Swamy suffers from extreme hearing loss in both ears, that his upper limbs were sluggish and suffered tremors. It also said that he required physical assistance in the form of a walking stick or a wheelchair.
However, his overall condition, his pulse rate etc.,were stable and Swamy was “responsive” and “cooperative,” the report said. Swamy told the court that he had suffered much while in prison.
“I was brought here eight months ago. When I came to Taloja, my whole system, my body was still very functional. But during these eight months, I have gone through a steady regression of all bodily functions,” Swamy said. “The main issue is that eight months ago I could take a bath by myself; I could take a walk; I could do some writing by myself. But all of these are disappearing one after another. So, Taloja jail brought me to a situation where I can neither write nor go for a walk by myself. I can’t eat. Somebody has to feed me through a spoon,” he said.
The bench then asked if Swamy wished to be admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital for “general treatment to improve his overall health.” Swamy, however, said that he had been admitted to that hospital on two previous occasions and he did not think that admission there could help him.
“What medicines will the JJ Hospital give me? I have been there twice. I know the set-up. I don’t want to go there,” Swamy said. “I would rather suffer and possibly die. I would rather be in Ranchi with my friends,” Swamy’s said, insisting that he be granted interim bail instead.
The bench, however, said that the court was hearing arguments on the point of hospital admission only and not on interim bail. It further said that Swamy’s health problems seemed to be general in nature and were probably just “age-related.”
Swamy’s advocate, senior counsel Mihir Desai, urged the court to adjourn the hearing for a week to permit him to speak with Swamy and to convince him to get admitted to a hospital. “Since he is a priest, he feels ‘forgive them, for they do not know what that do’… This is the approach he has taken,” Desai said.
The High Court granted him the liberty to approach its again if Swamy changed his mind about hospital admission. The bench said, “Someone must have told him, or he himself is an intelligent man. He knows his problems are only age related. That’s why he is pressing only for interim bail (and) says won’t take hospital admission.”
The HC directed the Taloja prison to follow all the recommendations made by JJ Hospital on providing health facilities and treatment to Swamy while in prison. Swamy approached the HC through advocate Desai earlier this year, challenging a special court’s decision from March this year.
In the order, the special court had rejected his bail on medical grounds as well as on merit. As per his counsel, Swamy suffers from Parkinson’s disease and several other health ailments.