The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Superintendent of Taloja prison in Maharashtra to shift jailed activist Gautam Navlakha to Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital for medical checkup and treatment.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said receiving medical treatment is a fundamental right of a prisoner while allowing Navlakha, accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, to meet his partner Sabha Husain and sister in the hospital.
In its order, the bench said, “We are of the view that petitioner is an undertrial and what is far more important which is right to life. The right of the undertrial to receive medical attention would be a fundamental right. This petitioner is taken immediately for a thorough medical checkup.”
“Accordingly, we direct Superintendent Taloja jail to take the petitioner to Jaslok hospital so that he is able to undergo a required medical check-up and receive treatment. We make it clear that the petitioner will remain in police custody,” it added.
The order of the top court came from a plea of Navlakha seeking direction that he be placed under house arrest instead of judicial custody in Taloja jail.
During the hearing, counsel appearing for 70-year-old Navlakha told the bench that he has colon cancer and requires colonoscopy and also check-up for skin allergies and dental issues.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), opposed Navlakha’s request for shifting him to house arrest and for a medical checkup.
I don’t know if skin allergy and dental issues are serious enough, the SG said, adding that as regards colonoscopy, the request should be raised before a competent court.
“Let him breathe some fresh air. He wasn’t even convicted in any small IPC offence earlier,” the bench observed.
As regards the main prayer to shift Navlakha from jail to house arrest, the bench posted the matter for hearing on October 21 as Solicitor General sought time to respond.
Navlakha has moved the top court challenging the April 26 order of the Bombay High Court which had dismissed his plea for house arrest over apprehensions of lack of adequate medical and other basic facilities in Taloja jail near Mumbai where he is currently lodged.
He can be put under house arrest in Mumbai, where his two sisters live, or in Delhi, Navlakha has asked.
The High Court had said Navlakha’s apprehensions about the lack of medical aid and inadequate basic facilities at the Taloja prison, were “ill-founded”.
He had approached the High Court saying the Taloja prison has poor facilities, overcrowded, and his medical condition deteriorated during his incarceration there.
Navlakha, one of the several civil liberties activists in the Bhima Koregaon case, has been booked under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for an alleged conspiracy to topple the government.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had granted bail to 82-year-old activist P Varavara Rao in the case.