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Bhima Koregaon: Prisoners accuse ex-jail superintendent of ‘political censorship’

The former Taloja Jail Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar has been allegedly saving copies of the letter exchanged between the accused and their family and lawyers  

Sabrangindia 27 Aug 2021

Taloja Jail

Ten activists, who have been falsely implicated in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, have written to the Home Minister of Maharashtra, alleging that Taloja Central Jail’s former Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar has been taking scans and saving copies of the letters exchanged between them and their family and advocates.

The letter signed by Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, read, “Mr Anand, Mr Gaichor and Mr Ferreira were served notice and accused by Superintendent Mr Kurlekar invoking powers vide of Rule 20 of Chapter 31 (Facilities to Prisoners) of the Maharashtra Jail Manual. Dr Anand for two articles, Mr Gaichor for a poem as an obituary for cultural activist and Ambedarkite Vira Saathidar and Mr Ferreira for an essay in memory of Father Stan Swamy. They were intimated that what they wrote was ‘objectionable, creating doubts relating to the investigation of Bhima Koregaon offences and propagating naxal ideology’”, reported The Hindu.

The letter addressed to the home minister also reportedly states that Rule 20 of the jail manual which refrains the prisoner from writing any ‘matter likely to become the subject of political propaganda’ was struck down as violative of fundamental rights by the Bombay High Court.

Rule 20 read, “A Prisoner who is entitled to write a letter and who desires to do so, may correspond on personal and private matters, but he shall not include any matter likely to become the subject of political propaganda or any strictures on the administration of the prison, or any reference to other persons confined in the prison who have their own opportunities for communication with their families.”

In Madhukar Bhagwan Jambhale vs State of Maharashtra 1984 (2) BomCR 70, the Division Bench had referred to Rule 20 of the Maharashtra Prison Manual and said, “As regards the political propaganda referred to in Rule 20, it is not always the case that every political propaganda is detrimental to the welfare of the society merely because it finds a place in a letter sent through the jail. The wording of the Rule puts a blanket ban on a prisoner to express any views, however innocent they may be or, however, beneficial to the society they may be. By reason of the conviction and being lodged in jail, the prisoner does not lose his political right or rights to express views on political matters, so long as such views propagated by the prisoner through letters do not have the potency of inciting violence or is likely to adversely affect maintenance of law and order or public order.”

The Rule was held to be unwarranted, unjust and unreasonable and was struck down as violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The Hindu further quoted the letter stating, “Not satisfied with this illegal ‘political censorship’ the superintendent scans/saves letters we write to family, friends and correspondence to advocates (which amounts to breach of privileged communication). We believed that some if not all were being shared with the police and prosecution. All this in addition causes inordinate delay in dispatch of letters to their destination.”

They have urged the Home Ministry to make sure that the jail administration instantly “halts the unlawful application of political censorship.” Kurlekar, who has been reportedly shifted from Taloja, and posted to a prison in Washim district, has been given the additional charge of Taloja jail.

Kin of accused move HC citing inhumane and cruel treatment by Kurlekar

Early this month, Rama Anand Teltumbde, Minal Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale’s friend Sharad Gaikwad filed the plea in the High Court against three orders passed by Judge D E Kothalikar directing the transfer of ten accused out of Taloja Central Prison to any other prison in Maharashtra.

According to a LiveLaw report, the petition states that Judge DE Kothalikar’s orders repeatedly permitted their transfers without issuing a notice, giving a hearing to them or recording reasons. Their plea also accuses Kurlekar of initiating the transfers as an act of “victimisation” for demanding their rights prescribed under The Prisons Act, 1894. It reads, “He has deprived them of basic requirements (communication with families), created impediments in the supply of medicine and has acted prejudicially to their detriment and suffering.”

The plea further states that Kurlekar had filed applications before the court accusing the families and lawyers of taking advantage of Covid-19 pandemic and making “false complaints” through the media and bringing pressure on Taloja jail authority to achieve their intention.

Prison conditions

The plea filed by the three persons also states that a couple of months ago, Surendra Gadling was squeezed into the quarantine ward with 40 other prisoners and it was only after the issue became public that he was removed from the congested ward.

LiveLaw quoted the plea mentioning, “The situation was such that the water used to drip through the ceiling, wetting the floor. Additionally, the toilet and washrooms therein were extremely dirty, which created an extremely unhygienic situation with strong nauseating odour spread in the complete ward. Mr Surendra and many other similarly placed people could not even sleep properly for days together and had to spend nights in standing position.”

It further stated that when other accused persons- Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Mahesh Raut tested positive for Covid-19, they were kept in a 15 * 8 feet isolation ward without nutritious food or vitamin tablets and it was only after they complained to their lawyers, any action was taken.

The petition also accused Kurlekar of not addressing the grievances of the inmates. He started a new norm to allow only two letters a month. Moreover, the letters were placed under strict censorship, asking the accused to score off allegations against prison officials.

“That it is the case of the Petitioners that conduct of the Respondent No.2 has not been humane, compassionate and rather has been cruel, and inhuman. It is submitted that the Respondents are bound in law to treat prisoners with dignity and ensure that Prison rules and regulations are complied with, which they have failed and neglected to do”, read the plea as per LiveLaw.

Related:

Mumbai court rejects bail pleas of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha

Bhima Koregaon case: NIA files draft charges under UAPA, sedition & conspiracy against 15 accused

Bhima Koregaon case: Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves seek interim bail

Bhima Koregaon: Prisoners accuse ex-jail superintendent of ‘political censorship’

The former Taloja Jail Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar has been allegedly saving copies of the letter exchanged between the accused and their family and lawyers  

Taloja Jail

Ten activists, who have been falsely implicated in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, have written to the Home Minister of Maharashtra, alleging that Taloja Central Jail’s former Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar has been taking scans and saving copies of the letters exchanged between them and their family and advocates.

The letter signed by Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, read, “Mr Anand, Mr Gaichor and Mr Ferreira were served notice and accused by Superintendent Mr Kurlekar invoking powers vide of Rule 20 of Chapter 31 (Facilities to Prisoners) of the Maharashtra Jail Manual. Dr Anand for two articles, Mr Gaichor for a poem as an obituary for cultural activist and Ambedarkite Vira Saathidar and Mr Ferreira for an essay in memory of Father Stan Swamy. They were intimated that what they wrote was ‘objectionable, creating doubts relating to the investigation of Bhima Koregaon offences and propagating naxal ideology’”, reported The Hindu.

The letter addressed to the home minister also reportedly states that Rule 20 of the jail manual which refrains the prisoner from writing any ‘matter likely to become the subject of political propaganda’ was struck down as violative of fundamental rights by the Bombay High Court.

Rule 20 read, “A Prisoner who is entitled to write a letter and who desires to do so, may correspond on personal and private matters, but he shall not include any matter likely to become the subject of political propaganda or any strictures on the administration of the prison, or any reference to other persons confined in the prison who have their own opportunities for communication with their families.”

In Madhukar Bhagwan Jambhale vs State of Maharashtra 1984 (2) BomCR 70, the Division Bench had referred to Rule 20 of the Maharashtra Prison Manual and said, “As regards the political propaganda referred to in Rule 20, it is not always the case that every political propaganda is detrimental to the welfare of the society merely because it finds a place in a letter sent through the jail. The wording of the Rule puts a blanket ban on a prisoner to express any views, however innocent they may be or, however, beneficial to the society they may be. By reason of the conviction and being lodged in jail, the prisoner does not lose his political right or rights to express views on political matters, so long as such views propagated by the prisoner through letters do not have the potency of inciting violence or is likely to adversely affect maintenance of law and order or public order.”

The Rule was held to be unwarranted, unjust and unreasonable and was struck down as violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The Hindu further quoted the letter stating, “Not satisfied with this illegal ‘political censorship’ the superintendent scans/saves letters we write to family, friends and correspondence to advocates (which amounts to breach of privileged communication). We believed that some if not all were being shared with the police and prosecution. All this in addition causes inordinate delay in dispatch of letters to their destination.”

They have urged the Home Ministry to make sure that the jail administration instantly “halts the unlawful application of political censorship.” Kurlekar, who has been reportedly shifted from Taloja, and posted to a prison in Washim district, has been given the additional charge of Taloja jail.

Kin of accused move HC citing inhumane and cruel treatment by Kurlekar

Early this month, Rama Anand Teltumbde, Minal Gadling and Sudhir Dhawale’s friend Sharad Gaikwad filed the plea in the High Court against three orders passed by Judge D E Kothalikar directing the transfer of ten accused out of Taloja Central Prison to any other prison in Maharashtra.

According to a LiveLaw report, the petition states that Judge DE Kothalikar’s orders repeatedly permitted their transfers without issuing a notice, giving a hearing to them or recording reasons. Their plea also accuses Kurlekar of initiating the transfers as an act of “victimisation” for demanding their rights prescribed under The Prisons Act, 1894. It reads, “He has deprived them of basic requirements (communication with families), created impediments in the supply of medicine and has acted prejudicially to their detriment and suffering.”

The plea further states that Kurlekar had filed applications before the court accusing the families and lawyers of taking advantage of Covid-19 pandemic and making “false complaints” through the media and bringing pressure on Taloja jail authority to achieve their intention.

Prison conditions

The plea filed by the three persons also states that a couple of months ago, Surendra Gadling was squeezed into the quarantine ward with 40 other prisoners and it was only after the issue became public that he was removed from the congested ward.

LiveLaw quoted the plea mentioning, “The situation was such that the water used to drip through the ceiling, wetting the floor. Additionally, the toilet and washrooms therein were extremely dirty, which created an extremely unhygienic situation with strong nauseating odour spread in the complete ward. Mr Surendra and many other similarly placed people could not even sleep properly for days together and had to spend nights in standing position.”

It further stated that when other accused persons- Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Mahesh Raut tested positive for Covid-19, they were kept in a 15 * 8 feet isolation ward without nutritious food or vitamin tablets and it was only after they complained to their lawyers, any action was taken.

The petition also accused Kurlekar of not addressing the grievances of the inmates. He started a new norm to allow only two letters a month. Moreover, the letters were placed under strict censorship, asking the accused to score off allegations against prison officials.

“That it is the case of the Petitioners that conduct of the Respondent No.2 has not been humane, compassionate and rather has been cruel, and inhuman. It is submitted that the Respondents are bound in law to treat prisoners with dignity and ensure that Prison rules and regulations are complied with, which they have failed and neglected to do”, read the plea as per LiveLaw.

Related:

Mumbai court rejects bail pleas of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha

Bhima Koregaon case: NIA files draft charges under UAPA, sedition & conspiracy against 15 accused

Bhima Koregaon case: Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves seek interim bail

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