Stan Swamy (Image: Screen grab from the last video shared by Swamy before being arrested by the NIA)
Government of India on July 6 rejected mounting international criticism over the handling of the case of Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old undertrial Parkinson’s patient who passed away on July 5, saying the concerned authorities act against violations of law and do not restrain the legitimate exercise of rights.
The Ministry of External Affairs said India remains committed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all its citizens and that the country's democratic polity is complemented by an independent judiciary and a range of national and state-level human rights commissions.
In view of furore and protests over the tribal rights activist’s death, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “India’s democratic and constitutional polity is complemented by an independent judiciary, a range of national and state-level Human Rights Commissions that monitor violations, a free media and a vibrant and vocal civil society. India remains committed to promotion and protection of human rights of all its citizens.”
Stan Swamy was arrested in October last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.
Bagchi pointed out that Father Stan Swamy was arrested and detained by the National Investigation Agency following due process of law. He added that because of the specific nature of charges against him, Fr Swamy's bail applications were rejected by courts.
The MEA spokesperson said: “Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law.”
Notably, the NIA had opposed his bail plea stating “conclusive proof" of his medical ailments does not exist and claiming he is a Maoist who tried to create unrest in the country.
Responding to criticism over refusal to give bail to Fr Swamy despite his failing health, Bagchi said: “In view of Father Stan Swamy’s ailing health, the Bombay High Court had allowed his medical treatment at a private hospital where he was receiving all possible medical attention since May 28. His health and medical treatment was being closely monitored by the courts. He passed away on July 5 following medical complications.”
Earlier, the United Nations body on human rights said it was “deeply saddened and disturbed” by the death of 84-year-old activist in pre-trial detention.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Swamy and 15 other human rights defenders with the government of India over the past three years and urged their release from detention, it said.
“We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, a human rights defender and Jesuit priest, in Mumbai yesterday, following his arrest in October 2020 under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
“Father Stan had been held in pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest, charged with terrorism-related offenses in relation to demonstrations that date back to 2018,” she said in a statement.(With PTI inputs)