14 April 2022 11:54 AM GMT
Nirmala Uppuganti (59) – an alleged Naxalite and prime accused in the Gadchiroli IED blast case of 2019 passed away on Saturday at a hospice that cares for the terminally ill (incurable). Seven months ago, the ailing inmate was shifted out of the confines of Byculla prison to Shanti Avedna, following orders of the Bombay High Court. She passed away at 10.35 am on April 9 and is...
Nirmala Uppuganti (59) – an alleged Naxalite and prime accused in the Gadchiroli IED blast case of 2019 passed away on Saturday at a hospice that cares for the terminally ill (incurable).
Seven months ago, the ailing inmate was shifted out of the confines of Byculla prison to Shanti Avedna, following orders of the Bombay High Court. She passed away at 10.35 am on April 9 and is survived by her husband, Satyanarayana Rani (70), lodged in Arthur Road Prison.
"She was really well looked after in the hospice. Both, in terms of pain management and care. There was dignity in death. Her room had a lot of sunshine and a view of the trees," Advocate Payoshi Roy, who represented Uppuganti said.
An orphan, Uppuganti was detected with cancer in 2016. She suffered from multiple bone metastases (cancer) and breast cancer. The disease had plagued her entire body, including her brain, lungs, skull and liver. Her heart was pumping blood only at 35% of its capacity, according to her reports last fall. On April 7, the HC allowed Satyanarayana, Uppuganti's husband, to meet her. They spent her last day together.
Roy said there was a sharp decline in her health since March 30, 2022.
"The fact is she's dying. She is developing ancillary diseases inside prison… This dark cell is no way for her to die," Roy had argued urging the court to shift Uppuganti out of Byculla prison. A week later, on September 9, the bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar granted her relief despite State's opposition.
The Case Against Uppuganti
In 2019, Uppuganti and her husband were arrested in the Gadchiroli blast case in which 15 security personnel and one driver had lost their lives after a land mine went off in their part. The police accused them of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and booked them under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Uppuganti and was being treated by doctors at the Tata Memorial Hospital even after her arrest in 2019. She wrote to Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry and Roy seeking legal representation.
Roy and Chaudhry approached the HC in September 2021, alleging rapid deterioration of Uppuganti's health due to Byculla prison conditions and the absence of basic amenities for an ordinary life with dignity. Multiple letters to prison officials met with no response.
In the plea Uppuganti sought palliative care or pain management at Shanti Avedna during what she called "the end stage of her terminal illness."
"…each waking moment was a living hell, and she was no longer able to bear the pain," the petition read. She wanted daily calls to her husband, a hot water bag, mattress, sanitized bathrooms, medicines and attendants till her plea was decided.
However, for the bench the reliefs sought were puzzling.
Uppuganti didn't want bail, she wanted palliative care at a hospice while still technically being in custody since there was no one to care for her. After an amendment, the court finally granted Uppuganti permission to be shifted to Shanti Avedna.
The state opposed the plea.
Expanding the scope of medical treatment to include palliative care, the bench observed,
"A prisoner, be he a convict or undertrial or a detenue, does not cease to be a human being, and even when lodged in jail, he is not deprived of his right to life guaranteed to him under Article 21 of the Constitution."