Failure of Rule of Law: Bar Association on Fr Swamy's 'Custodial Death'

84-year-old Stan Swamy, incarcerated in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, died a pre-trial prisoner.

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The Bar Association of India, on Thursday, 8 July, released a statement expressing 'deep concern and distress at the custodial death' of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, and terming it a 'failure of the Rule of Law'.

On Monday, 5 July, human rights activist Father Stan Swamy, who was incarcerated in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, passed away as a pre-trial prisoner after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Father Swamy breathed his last while his appeal for medical bail was being heard by the Bombay High Court. His colleague Father Joseph Xavier and his lawyer had earlier told the media that he was critical. Swamy also suffered from Parkinson’s disease. His death came amid several prolonged efforts by his counsel to secure his bail amid his deteriorating health.


'Failure of Rule of Law'

Pointing out how the octogenarian was arrested in October 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he was languishing in pre-trial detention at Taloja Central Jail, near Mumbai, for the last 8 months, 'during which time he also reportedly contacted COVID-19', the Bar Association also said,

“Despite his advanced age and deteriorating medical condition, which were exacerbated by the conditions of his incarceration, he was repeatedly, and most unusual, denied interim bail and bail on merits.”

“It is a failure of the Rule of Law and a profound institutional failure where an 84-year old sick person is held in such a long pre-trial detention, particularly during a global pandemic. Keeping someone of his age and condition in pre-trial custody, far from his home, amounts to cruel and unusual institutional mistreatment.”

Liberty & Right to Life Must Be Observed Even When UAPA is Invoked

Further, the Bar Association dubbed Swamy’s 'custodial death in these circumstances' a 'failure of the administration of justice' and informed that it has 'brought disrepute' to India’s legal system.

Thereby, the statement drew attention to the need to ensure adherence to the Rule of Law, and 'not just rule by law'. The association also pointed out that Liberty and Right to Life, as guaranteed by the Constitution, are ideals required to be observed even where acts like the UAPA are invoked.

The Bar Association of India called upon all institutional actors to uphold the Rule of Law by 'discharging their duties with regard to the human condition of detainees so that this dark episode is never repeated'.


Tragically, Indian Judiciary's 'Shining' Image Has Taken a Dent: Bar Association Prez

"World over, Indian judiciary is taken as a shining example for its independence and robustness for upholding the Constitution and the rule of law, and, in particular, for the wonderful expositions on right to life encapsulating human dignity," Bar Association President Prashant Kumar told The Quint.

"This incident has dented that (shining) image, which is as tragic for us as is the death of Stan Swamy."
Prashant Kumar | Bar Association President

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