Civil rights activists respond to reports of Byculla jail superintendent’s statement on Sudha Bharadwaj
Several civil rights activists on Saturday said “the jail superintendent is no authority to give an opinion on the clinical condition of a jailed person” while responding to news reports on the Byculla jail superintendent’s comments on the health of Sudha Bharadwaj, one of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case.
On May 1, The Hindu published a story quoting the Superintendent of Byculla Jail saying, “Ms. Bharadwaj keeps complaining. She has no body ache, no diarrhoea. She resorts to these gimmicks to get bail.”
Several writers and activists, including Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Kavita Srivastava, and Navsharan Kaur, among others, in a letter, said, “We are hearing reports about prisoners in different jails getting symptoms of COVID-19. Most of them are ignored. We also know that this new variant of corona is not being detected by the tests. We also know that Indian prisons are crowded beyond their capacity and it is impossible for them to keep the jail inmates secure.”
The letter stated, “In these circumstances, it is best, as has been argued since last year to decongest prisons. Priority should be given to the undertrials. There are people languishing in jails for years with many ailments. They are dangerously vulnerable to the new variant of COVID-19.”
The letter further said, “We are all aware that Sudha Bharadwaj along with 15 other academics, social activists and cultural workers have been languishing in jails … under the dreaded Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Repeated demands have been made from various quarters to release them at least on bail to save them from the severe health hazards of the coronavirus.”
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