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Gadchiroli-blast accused seeks shift to palliative care, Bombay HC asks NIA, state govt to respond

A division bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the state government and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respond to a plea by Nirmala Uppuganti, an accused in the 2019 Gadchiroli IED blast case, who has sought to be shifted in a hospice for palliative care pleading she was terminally ill with cancer. The division bench of Justice S S Shinde and N J Jamadar will hear the plea on Thursday.

The petition stated that Uppuganti, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, is suffering from multiple skeletal metastases, lung metastases and stage-four breast cancer. It further stated that the authorities at Byculla women’s jail, where she is lodged since 2019, have been “grossly negligent and incapable of giving her required medical assistance”.

In a hearing on Wednesday, Uppuganti’s lawyer, Payoshi Roy, submitted before the court that she has approached jail authorities multiple times, including last week, where she sought an appointment with the superintendent to discuss the 59-year-old’s health status and urgent medical needs, but her request to meet or speak with her client was denied. The court was informed that Uppuganti is kept in a crowded cell where she has to sleep on the floor, does not have access to basic facilities such as a mattress or hot water and other necessary medical facilities and that “daily existence in prison has become a living hell” for her.

Uppuganti, alleged to be a senior member of banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist), was arrested in 2019 for her alleged involvement in an IED blast in which 16 persons, including 15 security personnel, had died in Gadchiroli in May. After the case was transferred to the NIA, Uppuganti and other co-accused, including her husband Sathyanarayana Rani, were shifted to jails in Mumbai. The petition claimed that she was illegally detained by the Maharashtra police in June 2019 due to which she was forced to miss her chemotherapy cycle, deteriorating her condition.

The petition sought that she be shifted to a hospice and be taken for treatment at Tata Memorial Centre as and when required as per advice of the doctors treating her. It also sought that she be allowed to receive weekly letters, phone calls and visits from her husband, who is lodged in Arthur Road Jail. The petition stated that her husband has not received any information about her health condition.

“The Byculla women’s prison also does not have either the facilities or the medical staff to give the petitioner pain relief medication on a daily basis which is required to manage her pain and make her daily existence tolerable…the prison does not have life saving-facilities in the occasion of any emergency,” the petition stated. It added that to continue her incarceration in such conditions “when she has only a few days left to live” is a grave violation of constitutional rights.

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