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Sudha Bharadwaj is currently lodged in Mumbai's Byculla Prison in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Her interim bail plea was rejected by a Special NIA Court in Mumbai in May this year.
The Bombay High Court on Friday sought a response from the National Investigating Agency (NIA) as well as state prison authorities on the condition of the Byculla women's prison, where activist Sudha Bharadwaj is currently lodged.
The response was sought in an interim bail application filed by Bharadwaj, who is seeking temporary release on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Division Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Madhav Jamdar took up Bharadwaj's plea for interim bail via video conferencing on Friday.
Bhardwaj has sought interim bail on medical grounds. Her plea states that she has existing medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which makes her more prone and vulnerable to contracting the Coronavirus.
On account of pre-existing conditions and comorbidities, Bhardwaj falls in the most vulnerable category in terms of COVID-19 fatalities, it is submitted in the plea.
In its response, NIA had opposed Bharadwaj's plea, stating that she is not entitled to interim bail on account of the seriousness of the offences she is charged with. The agency stated that Bharadwaj is “taking undue benefit of the pandemic” in seeking interim bail on medical grounds. The response states,
The agency also said that the activist, on being checked by medical practitioners, was found to be in stable condition and is also being provided appropriate medical assistance in the prison where she is lodged.
The Court will hear the case next on July 17.
Earlier, the Special NIA Court in Mumbai had rejected Bharadwaj's plea for interim bail, filed in light of inmates in the Byculla women's prison testing positive for COVID-19. NIA had opposed the plea stating that her medical records showed no abnormalities.
Bharadwaj is one of the several activists, academicians, and lawyers whose houses were raided by the Pune Police in 2018 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.
For close to two years now, Bhardwaj has remained incarcerated on charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The investigation in the case stands transferred from the Pune Police to the NIA.