The Bombay High Court, while rejecting the bail application filed by former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba on Tuesday, noted that apart from narrating ailments suffered by the wheelchair bound 90% disabled professor who is serving life imprisonment, no further details are given in the application and considering that he tested negative for COVID-19, Court said that no ground was made out to release Saibaba.
A division bench of Justices AS Chandurkar and AB Borkar at Nagpur was hearing the application filed by Saibaba last month seeking suspension of sentence and/or temporary medical bail due to Covid-19.
In a judgment dated March 7, 2017, Saibaba was convicted for offences punishable under Section 13 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 read with Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life. The High Court had rejected Saibaba's previous application for suspension of sentence in an order dated March 25, 2019.
Saibaba's counsel Advocate NB Rathod submitted that though the earlier application preferred by the applicant under Section 389 of the Code was rejected, the present application has been filed seeking temporary bail mainly on two grounds. Firstly, on account of the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, he submitted that as there is a grave likelihood of the applicant being infected and sought his release on temporary bail for a period of forty-five days. Secondly, he submitted that the medical condition of the applicant has further deteriorated after March 25, 2019 and on that count also the applicant deserves to be enlarged on temporary bail. In addition, Adv Rathod urged that the health of the applicant's mother is also a cause of concern and the applicant's presence with her is necessary.
Moreover, the applicant suffers from various ailments which can be termed as comorbidities. Earlier the applicant was being looked after by two attendants provided by the Jail Authorities. However, after the spread of aforesaid pandemic, no attendants are being now provided to the applicant. Due to initiation of the lockdown the applicant is unable to receive various medicines which otherwise were being supplied by his family members and well-wishers, Adv Rathod contended.
Opposing the plea, Special Public Prosecutor P Sathianathan submitted that in the light of the earlier order dated March 25, 2019 passed by the Court rejecting the application for suspension of sentence, the present application itself is not tenable.
Moreover, SPP Sathiananthan argued that since the previous order of the High Court dated March 25 has not been challenged, it is not open to seek a fresh consideration of the grounds which were available for being urged and considered by this Court.
The court was informed that all care and due precaution is being taken by the Jail Authorities in the light of the spread of Covid-19. The Covid-19 test of the applicant was undertaken and the same was negative. There was no contact between inmates of the wing in which the applicant was kept with the inmates of other wings. Only the staff that had tested negative was kept on duty. All preventive and curative measures to prevent spread of the infection were being taken in the prison. Moreover, two attendants were made available to the applicant for 24 hours and grievances made in that regard were not tenable, SPP Sathianathan argued.
At the outset, the bench noted that the earlier application preferred by the applicant under Section 389 of the Code based on his medical condition was considered and rejected. Since this order has not been challenged, it still holds the field, the bench observed.
Furthermore, citing the reply filed by Chief Medical Officer, Nagpur Central Prison that all requisite precautions are being taken to stop its spread in the jail and the applicant has already tested negative for Covid-19, Court said-
"The steps taken towards prevention of infection have been highlighted in the aforesaid reply and we do not find any reason to doubt the aforesaid steps as taken. In fact, there is no material on record to disbelieve the aforesaid statements made by the Chief Medical Officer, Nagpur Central Prison. Though the applicant suffers from various ailments, in the light of the fact that he has been kept in a separate high security cell and there is no contact/communication between the inmates of the wing in which he is kept with the inmates of the other wings, we do not find any ground made out to release the applicant on temporary bail due to outbreak of the pandemic. While arriving at this conclusion, we have kept in mind the nature of accusations against the applicant, his conviction by the Sessions Court and rejection of his application for suspension of sentence by this Court.
As regards the worsening medical condition of the applicant as sought to be urged by him, we find that in the application moved by the applicant except for narrating the ailments said to be suffered by him, there are no further details given."
Thus, the bail application was rejected and the Court clarified that the fresh application for parole filed on June 16 will be considered by jail authorities expeditiously as per its own merit.
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