NHRC Asked to Intervene in Prof Saibaba’s Case

CONCERNED over the rapidly deteriorating health condition of Prof Saibaba, a person with disability, who is in solitary confinement in the Nagpur Central Jail a delegation met the Registrar of the National Human Rights Commission on June 1 and handed over a memorandum addressed to the chairman of the NHRC.

At the outset, the delegation thanked the NHRC for taking cognisance of an earlier complaint made by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) with regard to the inhuman, degrading and humiliating conditions in which Prof Saibaba is being held and sending an NHRC official to the Nagpur jail for an on-the-spot enquiry.

Prof Saibaba is a wheelchair user with 90 per cent physical disability. Apart from the deplorable conditions in jail and the premises being completely inaccessible, he is constantly subjected to mistreatment and mishandled by the police and jail staff.

Disabilities apart, Prof Saibaba suffers from acute pancreatitis and impacted gall bladder-stones, and has been advised immediate surgery in a hospital where special facilities for treatment of people with severe disabilities is available. He was under pre-operative treatment when he was convicted and immediately incarcerated. Pancreatitis is a life-threatening and acutely painful condition. Instead of providing the necessary life saving treatment to Prof Saibaba, the jail staff have refused even to let him be attended by the jail doctor. Apart from pancreatitis, Prof Saibaba has a serious heart condition.

Bringing all this and much more facts before the NHRC, the delegation sought to impress upon the registrar Ashok Kumar Koul that the current conditions in which Prof Saibaba is being held are violative of his right to life, dignity, equality, protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, non-discrimination and right to health.

The memorandum also pointed out that India is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the UN Resolution 70/175 on Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules), all of which reaffirm the right to life with dignity of prisoners.

As Prof Saibaba is a person with disability, the UNCRPD, which India also ratified, as well as the recently passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act), which was enacted to fulfil India’s obligation under the afore-mentioned convention, are wholly applicable to his case.

They therefore appealed to the NHRC to intervene to see that Prof Saibaba be given bail on medical grounds, and immediately shifted to a hospital where he can be operated on under the supervision of doctors who have expertise in dealing with his severe disabilities. His need for medical attention is imperative and most pressing and its denial will be the ultimate violation of his right to a dignified life and right to healthcare amongst other fundamental rights.

The delegation which met NHRC registrar (law) Ashok Kumar Koul comprised Prof Saibaba’s wife Vasantha Kumari, president of Delhi University Teachers Association, Nandita Narain, feminist activist Kalyani Menon Sen and secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, Muralidharan. Koul has assured to act upon the complaint.

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