A special court in Mumbai March 11 deferred its order on the bail plea of tribal rights activist Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, plunging his confreres and supporters into gloom.
“Yes sad, and bad indeed,” the Jesuit Conference of South Asia reacted to the news. “The wait, the anxiety, the struggle, the hope continues,” it said in a WhatsApp message sent to friends and supporters of the 83-year-old Jesuit activist.
Asserting their belief that truth and justice will prevail, the conference that represents more than 4,000 Jesuit in South Asia, said they will continue to pray for Father Swamy’s release in an unbroken relentless spirit.
The court was likely to pass the order on March 15 but deferred it as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed some additional documents and Father Swamy’s lawyer sought time to respond.
Father Swamy, currently lodged in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, was arrested on Oct. 8, 2020, by the NIA, from his residence near Ranchi, eastern India.
In his bail plea, the Jesuit had said that he was being targeted by the central agency due to the nature of his writings and work about caste and land struggles of the people of India, and violation of democratic rights of the marginalized citizens of the country.
The bail plea had also said that Father Swamy was not connected in any way to the organization of Elgar Parishad event in Pune on December 31, 2017.
However, the NIA has claimed that it has sufficient evidence to prima facie prove that the accused was involved in the deep-rooted conspiracy and was directly involved in the Naxalite (Maoist) movement.
In a related development, the court allowed the exemption plea of activist Varavara Rao, who has been granted interim bail for six months on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court.
Rao had filed an application for exemption from personal appearance as permitted in the high court order granting him temporary bail.
Rao, Father Swamy and several other activists have been arrested in Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.
Violence erupted in the vicinity of a war memorial in Koregaon Bhima, on the outskirts of Pune city, on January 1, 2018, allegedly after provocative speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave.
The Pune police, which initially probed the case, claimed that the conclave was backed by outlawed Maoist groups.
The NIA later took over the probe the case that named a number of Left-wing activists and academicians as accused.
Jesuit Father Santanam, secretary of the Lawyers Forum, says the NIA filing additional documents on the day the court was to give its order on Father Swamy’s bail plea reveals that the “the prosecution is resting on shaky grounds.”
“One does not know what the NIA is going to achieve by keeping one behind the bar limitlessly. The court shall not forget the maxim ‘bail is a norm and jail is an exception’,” the lawyer priest told Matters India.