Activist Stan Swamy Passes Away After Battling Illness, Bail Rejections

84-year-old activist Father Stan Swamy died a day before his bail hearing.

2 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Father Stan Swamy, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, died of cardiac arrest on Monday, 5 July, a day before his bail hearing. As his health deteriorated, 84-year-old Swamy was reportedly placed on ventilator support at Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital on Sunday, 4 July.

His colleague Father Joseph Xavier and his lawyer had earlier told the media that he was critical. Swamy also suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Swamy's death comes amid several prolonged efforts to secure his bail amid his deteriorating health.

Swamy was arrested from his Jharkhand residence by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in October 2020 for his alleged links with Naxals and banned CPI (Maoists).

Swamy was a Jesuit priest and a tribal rights activist, who had worked in Jharkhand for over three decades on various issues faced by the Adivasi communities pertaining to land, forest and labour rights.

'With a Heavy Heart, We Record...': What Bombay HC Said

The Bombay High Court, which was hearing Swamy's bail plea, passed an ordered for Swamy's body be handed over to Father Frazer, the retired principal of St Xavier's college who was allowed to meet Swamy at the hospital.

"We record with a heavy heart that Dr D Souza informed the court that Fr Stan Swamy passed away Dr D Souza informs that the petitioner had suffered cardiac arrest. Mr. Desai submitted that the petitioner was awarded best of the treatment at Holy Family hospital (sic)," the court said.

Swamy's Plea in the Court

Swamy had approached the Bombay HC challenging Section 43D(5) of the UAPA, which bars grant of bail if the accusation is prima facie true.

Swamy has contended in his plea that this provision creates an ‘unsurmountable’ hurdle for the accused to get bail and, thus, is violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21(right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution, The Leaflet reported.

The plea read, “Presumption of innocence is a fundamental tenet of our criminal jurisprudence and is a human right. In any event, when such harsh conditions are imposed in respect of grant of bail even before the trial is conducted the same inverts on its head the presumption of innocence."

Though Father Stan's bail plea was scheduled for hearing on 3 July, due to paucity of time, it was adjourned to 6 July, The Times of India reported.


Deteriorating Health

In May, Swamy’s health had deteriorated, leading to civil society groups urging the authorities to bring him immediate medical attention. Following this, he was hospitalised. He had tested positive for COVID-19 during hospitalisation.

Following this, the high court, on 17 June instructed for Swamy to be hospitalised till 5 July.

The National Human Rights Commission on 5 July issued a notice to the Maharashtra government, seeking that ‘every possible effort’ is made to provide medical care and treatment to Stan Swamy.

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), in an open letter to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court also highlighted Swamy's urgent plea and his "irreversibly deteriorating health". PUDR urged the chief justice to intervene in the matter and allow him mental and physical relief.

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