In a relief to Maoist leader Nirmala Uppuganti, the Bombay High Court allowed her plea to be transferred to a hospice for palliative care due to her terminal illness, observing that even an undertrial prisoner has right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which includes the right to obtain medical treatment. A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar directed the officials to shift Uppuganti from Byculla women's prison to the Shanti Avedna Sadan hospice in Bandra by September 15.
The judges observed, “A prisoner, be he a convict or under-trial or a detenu, does not cease to be a human being. Even when lodged in the jail, he is not deprived of his right to life guaranteed to him under Article 21, which includes the right to obtain medical treatment. A prisoner cannot be deprived of health services as it would violate the guarantee conferred under the article.” The HC has also allowed her to contact her husband, also an accused in the case, who is lodged at the Arthur Road Prison.
Uppuganti and her husband were arrested in 2019 for their alleged involvement in the Gadchiroli naxal attack in which 15 police personnel and one civilian had died. According to the prosecution, they are allegedly senior members of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Uppuganti had approached the HC and sought a transfer to the hospice, stating that she has stage four cancer and was suffering from multiple skeletal metastases and lung metastases. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. She claimed that she was illegally detained by the Maharashtra police in June, 2019. She was forced to miss her chemotherapy sessions and her condition deteriorated. She also sought permission to meet her husband.
Her advocate, Payoshi Roy, argued that Uppuganti was kept in a crowded prison cell, where she had to sleep on the floor with no access to basic amenities, like toilets and hot water, and medical facilities. She added that the Byculla prison was grossly inadequate and the prison authorities were incapable of taking care of her and giving her basic palliative care.
Her petition reads, “Given the petitioner's precarious condition, she requires close monitoring and supervision with adequate personal attention and easy access to critical life-saving equipment.”
Additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde opposed the petition and argued that Uppuganti was being taken to the Tata Memorial Care Centre thrice a week on alternate days to ensure she gets her treatment as directed by her doctors. The prosecutor also said she was lodged in a cell with two convicts, who are taking care of her. Also, she is able to move and her treatment will continue at Tata Hospital.
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