HC: State should be alive to obligation, ensure medical aid to jailed journalist

THE NAGPUR bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday said that the Maharashtra government should be alive to its obligation and ensure required medical assistance to journalist Prashant Rahi. The bench made these observations while responding to a petition filed on behalf of Rahi, stating that his health was deteriorating and he had not been referred to a specialist.

“We hope the state is alive to its obligation to ensure that whatever is required to be done to give succor to the prisoner, within the four corners of law, is done promptly,” stated the HC bench of Justices Rohit B Deo and Urmila Joshi-Phalke. The court will hear the petition again on Thursday.

Rahi was convicted along with five others, including former Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, in 2017 and sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged links with Maoists. Last month, the HC set aside the conviction ordering their release, but the order was stayed by the Supreme Court.

In the petition filed before the HC on Rahi’s ill health, it is stated that while lodged at Amravati Central jail, his condition had deteriorated and he was unable to eat regular food since over four months and was surviving on biscuits. The petition states that he suffers unbearable abdominal pain and burning sensation on consuming a meal. It adds that he has not been referred to any expert or specialist or given a special diet as per his medical needs. To avoid the pain, Rahi has started avoiding food and water, which in turn is causing other issues such as dehydration.

The petition states that despite writing an application to the medical officer of the jail, seeking examination by a specialist like a gastroenterologist, Rahi was not referred to any expert. Based on the court’s previous order, he was examined by a civil surgeon in the district hospital at Amravati in September, but despite the surgeon’s recommendation, Rahi was not referred to a gastroenterologist as the hospital didn’t have one and he would have to be taken to Nagpur. He was also taken to a dietician whose diet gave him some relief, but he was not taken for a follow-up and the diet was discontinued after eight days, the petition stated.

On the advice of the doctors in Amravati, Rahi was finally taken to the Nagpur hospital on November 8 but was sent back to jail without any examination as the department was closed. The petition has urged that the journalist be admitted to the hospital in Nagpur till he regains his health.

On Tuesday, the additional public prosecutor told HC that Rahi has been examined by the gastroenterologist and undergone a sonography. The court said that even a convict is entitled to the best of medical treatment and his fundamental right to life should not be diluted.

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