PUDR expresses apprehensions over the health status of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha who surrendered before the NIA in Mumbai and Delhi respectively on 14 April 2020. Both are implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case of January 2018 in which eleven human rights defenders have been arrested.
Both Professor Anand Teltumbde and Mr Gautam Navlakha were interrogated by the NIA and have been sent to judicial custody.
It has come to light that one of the officers of the NIA, Mumbai, has tested positive for COVID-19 in this period. Anand Teltumbde was subsequently tested for suspected exposure, and his report is negative for COVID-19.
Senior Citizens Anand Teltumde & Gautam Navlakha Must Be Released ASAP
The NIA court at Mumbai rejected Anand Teltumbde’s bail application that had cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the high risk in jails, and his continuing respiratory ailment. We wish to reiterate that the risks to those lodged in prisons are both very real and with grave consequences. Professor Anand Teltumbde is 70-years-old, and Gautam Navlakha is 67-years-old. They have both voluntarily surrendered to the investigation.
The investigation agency has expressed no desire for further custody for interrogation. Thus, no purpose is being served by keeping them in custody at present.
PUDR has repeatedly raised the issue of the health risk that COVID-19 poses to jail inmates, and has sent representations to the government and its High Powered Committees. It has demanded provision of bail, irrespective of the nature of the charges, to elderly inmates, and those who are suffering from health issues.
Jails Are Fertile Grounds for Disease – Vulnerable Prisoners Must Be Freed Amid COVID
Jails are recognised to be amongst the most fertile breeding grounds for infectious diseases and the risk to life is obvious for those more vulnerable.
Hence, PUDR appeals to the central government and the courts to recognise the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and to permit interim bail to Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and many others of advanced age, and those with ailments currently lodged in prisons in the country.
(This is a press release by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) dated 27 April 2020, in support of jailed human rights activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the authors’ own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)