Maharashtra – Letter from undertrial prisoners on hunger strike at Nagpur central prison

February 10, 2014

Update as of Feb 6: The strike has been called off yesterday. Several prisoners including Sudhir Dhawale were hospitalized.

Indefinite Hunger Strike from 30th January onwards

Dear Friends,

We request your support for the indefinite hunger strike that will commence on 30th January onwards at Nagpur Central Prison, Nagpur, Maharashtra. At least 177 under trial prisoners, including 7 women, (arrested under UAPA, MCOCA, and murder cases) are going to participate in the strike.

It is the settled principle of law and directive of the Apex court of this country that “Bail is the rule and Jail is an exception”.

Despite the repeated directives of the said Supreme Court to grant bail at the earliest, irrespective of the gravity of the charge, bail applications for these prisoners are continually rejected or postponed. They are deprived of their legal and constitutional right to bail; physical attendance in courts; bail in lingering, procrastinated trials; reasonably quicker judgments; in short, fair and speedy trials. The move towards camera trials distances these prisoners further from their lawyers, the court, their ability to present their own case. It will only continue their sequestration in prisons. As a result, under trial prisoners continue to languish in jail and the prison population is ever increasing. In the meantime, their families and friends continue with their futile anxious wait outside.

A petition highlighting the conditions of the prisoners to the effect has been sent to the Honorable judge through the jail superintendent on January 20, 2014. If there is no reasonable response by the 30th of January, 2014, 177 under trial prisoners (including 7 female) are resolved to go on an indefinite hunger strike till our following demands are achieved.

A memorandum including the following demands has been sent to Honorable Principal Judge of Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) and others through The Superintendent of the Nagpur Central Prison Nagpur on 20th January 2014:

1. The directives of Honorable Supreme Court that “Bail is the rule and Jail is an exception” should be implemented as principle regarding bail and Bail should be granted definite time period (short time).
2. After charge sheet is filed, those charges with supposedly serious crimes should also be granted bail. Albeit with if required.
3. In order to establish the right of fair and speedy trial. The Judgment should be given relatively definite time period (short time). If the case is pending due to some Unavoidable reasons then bail should be granted. Specially to those Under trial prisoners whose bail (s) has/have been refused earlier.
4. The right of fair trial cannot be established through Video Conference method so its (V.C.) should not be an option during trial and Under trial prisoners must be physically presented in the courts.

The success of our struggle cannot be achieved without your solidarity and active support from outside. So we humbly and hopefully appeal that democratic rights groups, legal activists, civil society groups, and intellectuals to kindly extend your support in our favour.

With regards
1] Sudhir Dhawale
2] Diwakar Jha
3] Gautam Pillewan
and other undertrial prisoners.