Bhima Koregaon: NIA court rejects plea to use mosquito nets in prison

It’s most cruel and inhuman to deny inmates mosquito nets, says advocate for the accused, Susan Abraham. 

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ON Thursday, a special National Intelligence Agency (‘NIA’) court in Mumbai presided by Special Judge Rajesh Kataria, rejected the plea filed by Gautam Navlakha and Sagar Gorkhe, to use mosquito nets in prison. The court allowed Navlakha and Gorkhe to use mosquito repellant ointments and natural mosquito incense sticks.  

Special judge Kataria directed the jail superintendent to take all necessary precautions against the mosquitoes and to submit a compliance report. As reported by the Times of India, the judge said, “Prison area shall be kept free from unwanted plants and weeds. Mosquito insecticide sprays and fumigation shall be done periodically. It shall be done every fortnight during rainy season”. 

Gorkhe, an activist and performer with cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch, accused of inciting violence in the Bhima Koregaon (Elgar Parishad) case, had written to Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil announcing his hunger strike in protest against the conditions at Taloja jail. Activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha, who is a co-accused lodged in the same prison, approached the NIA seeking a mosquito net. Navlakha, in his plea, claimed that prison authorities took his net away.

Prison officials have reportedly claimed that a security check was conducted by its officials and nets were seized as they pose a security risk. “The mosquito nets have a long string and need to be fixed through nails in the wall. Both the string and the nails are a security risk, which can be used by prisoners to harm themselves by suicide or harm others. Mosquito repellent ointments and coils are available at the prison canteen, which many are using. The nets were seized as there are no court orders permitting them,” Indian Express has quoted a prison official as stating.

Susan Abraham, one of the lawyers fighting for the Bhima Koregaon accused said, “it’s most cruel and inhuman to deny inmates mosquito nets in a mosquito-infected locality with rising cases of dengue and malaria”. 

Smita Chakraburtty, founder of Prison Aid + Action Research and honorary prison commissioner appointed by the Rajasthan Government, working to implement an open prison system in India, said, “This exposes the lack of understanding on how prisons operate on part of the State”. According to her, mosquito nets are allowed across all the prisons in India, particularly for the elderly prisoners. With Navlakha and the other accused who are above the age of 60 years and kept in high-security space, Smita says, they should be allowed mosquito nets. On the reply of the State on security risks, she said: “This is absolutely unfounded as there is no dearth of nails or threads or strings in the prison for the inmates to harm themselves and others”. 

Meanwhile, Navlakha has filed a plea for a cot on account of his difficulty sleeping on the floor; an order is awaited on the same. Further, activist Jyoti Jagtap, another co-accused in the Bhima-Koregaon (Elgar Parishad) case, has prayed for permission to read books. A reply has to be filed by the State on Jagtap’s plea. 

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