Bhubaneswar: Police on Monday refused to allow a group of civil society members to meet three undertrial prisoners, who are undergoing treatment at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack after their condition deteriorated due to indefinite fast.
The prisoners had begun the fast in the Jharpada Special Jail here on March 30 demanding expeditious trial of their cases. They and four others were arrested in connection with the February 15, 2008, Maoist attack on police stations and looting of armoury in Nayagarh in which 14 policemen and one civilian were killed.
Five cases were registered against them. In three cases, six of them have since been acquitted. Their complaint, sent to different authorities including the chief minister and human rights commissions (Odisha and national), is that trial in the remaining two cases though started in March 2012 has not made much progress because of non-production of witnesses, mostly government employees. This has led to their long stay in jail. They further said the high court had issued a direction to dispose of their cases by 2012.
The prisoners on fast were first admitted to the Capital Hospital here. Four of them were later shifted to the SCB. One accused called off the fast following doctors’ advice that sustained fast could endanger his life.
“We had gone to the hospital only to persuade the prisoners to give up their fast, but the police refused to let us meet them. This speaks of the highhandedness of police and jail authorities,” said advocate Biswapriya Kanungo. He was one of the members of the six-member civil society group headed by noted freedom fighter and former Parliament member Bhabani Charan Patnaik.
Kanungo said they support the prisoners’ demand because speedy trial is a fundamental right as it is an integral part of right to life and liberty of a person. Indefinite fast, however, is no solution to achieve the goal. He said the team had informed inspector general (prisons) and Jharpada Special Jail superintendent before leaving for SCB .
“We also contacted DCP (Cuttack), but he told us that he could not allow their meeting with the prisoners as they are under judicial custody,” Kanungo said.Official sources said director of prosecutions is likely to visit Nayagarh on Tuesday to discuss the issue of speedy trial of the prisoners with collector, SP and others there.
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