The state sought to justify that the ‘security’ concerns expressed over the parcel containing the book last year were due to Covid-19 pandemic precautionary concerns as a preventive measure, but the high court on seeing the order in Marathi which only mentioned ‘security’ said it did not give the impression of pandemic precautions.
“you must understand that laymen also understand ‘suraksha’ as security, when it mentions covid reasons then it is precautionary.’’
The State additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde had submitted a fresh affidavit and the HC asked if it explained everything in it with documents annexed and questioned why new explanations were being added orally when court was pointing out contradictions.
The bench, as an aside, asked State, “Do you not have English books in the library?” Shinde said they also “have Urdu books’’ and “spiritual books”. She said there are 2850 books at Taloja prison including Dnyanpeeth Puruskar books and would supply a list. “That is nothing. Even a secondary school will have more books. Anyway that is a different issue,’’ said Justice Shukre.
The State gave a list of books given to Navalakha. The bench noted they included, “Arabian Nights, Ruskin Bond, Ishwar ka Chehra’’.
The bench said jails must have a “wider selection’’ and book in other languages too’’ adding, “It is very important for jail inmates to read books of humour and other books on fiction and spirituality.’’
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) through ASG Anil Singh opposed Navalakha’s plea for house arrest citing the seriousness of the anti-terror Act invoked against him, practical difficulties and that his bail plea on merits was still pending, besides his plea for medical bail and default bail were rejected. Singh said Navalakha would be provided medical treatment as and when needed, as that is his right. Navalakha, 70, who was briefly in house arrest in 2018 in the case before being asked by the Supreme Court to surrender said Singh, despite the jails being overcrowded then too.
Yug Chaudhry counsel for Navalakha, cited an SC order and the law to say house arrest can be given on a case to case basis. The fear of the unknown –of floodgates opening—cannot prevent the court from ordering his house arrest and he pleaded to the Court’s “good conscience and fair play’’ on deciding on costs if any to be borne by the inmate himself.
Singh for NIA said “it is not a fit case for House arrest. It would be difficult for State and Centre to implement it when investigation in ongoing.’’ He said it would open floodgates for similar application as there “are thousands of 70 year old prisons across jail and many who have health issues.’’ He said, “with two police guards to be posted out, will police force be deployed for such case or deal with law and order, crime investigations.’’
Shinde for State said Navalakha refused to go for check up even to Tata Memorial Research hospital which is the best, saying he wished to go to a hospital of his choice and that a report by JJ hospital belied fears over a lump on chest. She also said he is in a high security single occupancy cell. There are 33 such prisoners at Taloja she said when asked by the HC.
Taloja has a capacity of little over 2124 mostly undertrial prisoners, last May had almost 3000 inmates.