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Counsel says NIA never sought Swamy’s custodial interrogation

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The death of the octogenarian tribal rights activist Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Father Stan Swamy, an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, has sparked a debate among sections of the civil society on the treatment meted out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

While the federal agency maintains that Swamy was an ‘active member’ of the banned outfit CPI (Maoist), who was found with “incriminating documents”, Mihir Desai, the counsel who represented the late Father, questioned the intent of the federal agency to arrest Swamy. “Custodial interrogation is required either to interrogate an accused or if he is a flight-risk. In case of Swamy, they never sought his custody and an 84-year old with multiple ailments can hardly qualify as a flight risk. So, there were no sound grounds to arrest him in the first place,” Desai added.

Although the federal agency arrested Swamy on October 8 last year in connection with the case, it never interrogated him in custody. A day after his arrest, the NIA filed a supplementary chargesheet in the case against Swamy, Dalit activist Anand Teltumbde and Delhi-based human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, co-accused in the case. The agency has filed chargesheets against 22 people, including 16 who were arrested in the case under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which makes granting of bail difficult.

However, the agency kept opposing his bail pleas and filed affidavits. In one such court filing, the agency said, “…certainly not the age but the act of the accused that is to be taken into account”. The agency also cast aspersions on Swamy’s health conditions. NIA said “no conclusive proof of alleged Parkinson disease or lumbar spondylosis” were found. It said the tribal activist was taking undue benefit of the global pandemic.

Sources in the probe agency defended its stand claiming that the arrest was necessary as Swamy was part of a ‘larger conspiracy’. “Not just Swamy, other activists arrested in the case have moved the Supreme Court seeking relief but none have been successful. This shows the strong nature of evidence we have against them,” said a senior official speaking on condition of anonymity. “Swamy was being treated at a hospital of his choice. And his bail plea was rejected twice by the court which was convinced with our evidence,” added the official.

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