Bombay HC says Stan Swamy was a ‘great person’ and has ‘great respect’ for his work

Hearing posthumously the appeals filed by late Jesuit priest Stan Swamy in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgaar Parishad case on Monday, the Bombay High Court said he was a wonderful person and the court had “great respect” for his work.

The observations were made by a bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar that had also presided over Swamy’s medical bail plea on July 5, when the HC was informed about the 84-year-old priest’s death at the Holy Family Hospital here that day following a cardiac arrest.

“We don’t have time normally, but I saw the funeral service (of Swamy). It was very gracious,” Justice Shinde said. “Such a wonderful person. The kind of service he has rendered to the society. We have great respect for his work. Legally, whatever is there against him is a different matter,” he said.

Swamy was arrested by the NIA in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case from Ranchi in October 2020. The tribal rights activist, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and several other ailments, spent most of his time in custody in the Taloja prison’s hospital in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.

He was admitted to the state-run J J Hospital in Mumbai on two occasions and was shifted to the Holy Family Hospital, a private medical facility, on May 28, following the intervention of the bench led by Justice Shinde.

On July 5, the bench was informed by the hospital authorities that Swamy had suffered from a cardiac arrest two days prior and was put on ventilator support.

He never regained consciousness and was declared dead by the hospital authorities about an hour before Swamy’s medical bail plea was taken up for hearing by the HC, it was informed at that time.

The bench, however, also said it had ensured to remain fair while passing orders on Swamy’s medical bail plea, as well as on the pleas filed by his co-accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

The bench also referred to the criticism the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the judiciary had received following Swamy’s death.

It also expressed regret over how, in several cases, undertrials languished in prisons waiting for the trial to begin.

The bench, however, also said it had ensured to remain fair while passing orders on Swamy’s medical bail plea, as well as on the pleas filed by his co-accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

“You came to us with his medical bail plea on May 28 and we acceded to every prayer, every time,” the court said to Swamy’s advocate, senior counsel Mihir Desai.

“Outside, we are speechless. Only you (Desai) can clarify this. You have said on record that you have no grievance with this court in the matter,” the High Court said.

The HC will continue hearing the pleas on July 23.

The Elgar Parishad case is related to inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

The police had claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.

The NIA later took over the probe into the case.