Over 2,500 people including several academics, activists, artists, filmmakers, economists, journalists, lawyers, retired bureaucrats and writers, from India and abroad, have issued a statement demanding the release of 84-year-old Stan Swamy, whose bail was rejected by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on March 22.
The signatories, which include Yogendra Yadav, Anand Patwardhan, Nandita Das, Bharat Bhushan Choudhary, Aruna Roy, etc. have also demanded dropping charges against the Dalit and tribal rights activist under the Unlawful Activites Prevention Act (UAPA) and a "return to the norm where bail is the rule, not the exception".
"Stan Swamy is a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners who languish in jail for years under fabricated UAPA charges, often aimed at harassing those who stand up for the underprivileged or oppose the government. The conviction rate in UAPA cases is extremely low (2.2% between 2016-19 as mentioned in the Parliament), confirming that many of the charges are baseless," read the letter.
It added that the electronic evidence collected by the NIA "has exposed how fake documents were planted into the computers of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case". "Stan himself clearly told the NIA that some so-called extracts allegedly taken from his computer were fabricated and that he disowned them. It is disturbing that the court decided to ignore this evidence of fabrication as it rejected the bail application," the letter read.
The activists expressed "shock" by the rejection of Stan Swamy's bail application and said, "We know Stan as an exceptionally gentle, honest and selfless person. We have the highest regard for him and his work. He has spent decades in Jharkhand working for the rights of the Adivasis and underprivileged." "Rejection of the bail of an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension," it added.
Why did the court reject Stan Swamy's bail application?
In a 33-page order rejecting the bail application of Swamy on March 22, a special NIA court in Mumbai said that from the material placed on record prima facie denotes that Swamy carried out activities in furtherance of the objective of CPI (Maoist), which is nothing but to overthrow the democracy of the nation.
Special judge Dinesh E Kothalikar said in his order that prima facie it can be gathered that Swamy along with members of CPI (Maoist) “hatched a serious conspiracy to create unrest in the entire country and to overpower the government, politically and by using muscle power.”
The record further discloses that there is an exchange of around 140 emails between the applicant and co-accused, which goes to suggest that he was in touch with co-accused and can be said to be an additional link to connect him with them, the court added.
The court also referred to incriminating letters seized in Stan Swamy’s house search and said that it can be prima facie gathered that there was “deep-rooted conspiracy of extremely serious repercussions”.