Former SC Judge Justice P B Sawant, Eminent Historian Romila Thapar,  Danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, Politician Brinda Karat amongst, those write to

Maharashtra High Powered Committee

 More than 650 concerned citizens have written to the Maharashtra High Powered Committee requesting the temporary release of Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj and Professor Shoma Sen, due to the unprecedented emergency situation created by the COVID pandemic which is now rampaging through the Mumbai jails, including the Byculla Prison where the two are currently incarcerated.  The signatories include Pune baseformer SC judge, Justice PB Sawant, eminent historian Romila Thapar, economists Amit Bhaduri and Jayati Ghosh, senior advocates of the Supreme Court Indira Jaising and Colin Gonsalves, activists Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, ex Ambassador to Portugal Madhu Bhaduri, CPIM leader Brinda Karat, women’s rights activist Annie Raja, dancer Mallika Sarabhai, writer Githa Hariharan, civil rights lawyer V. Suresh, and many others.

They have also appealed to the HPC that they must consider the applications of all prisoners including all other political prisoners, within a perspective of a public health crisis and all cases for temporary release must be examined adhering to the principle of equality before the law and equal protection before the law.

The letter reminds the authorities that both Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen are elderly prisoners, with co-morbidities that puts them at especial risk for COVID disease.  Sudha Bharadwaj is a well-known lawyer and trade unionist and taught at the National Law University in Delhi, while Shoma Sen is a feminist scholar and was the head of English Department at Nagpur University. The letter urges the Committee to apply the golden rule of the presumption of innocence for all, especially given the feeble evidence in this case, and recommend the temporary release of the two prisoners

The letter also states that Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen have been charged under the draconian UAPA in the controversial Bhima Koregaon case and have been incarcerated for close to 2 years.  Earlier this year, the two were moved to Byculla jail in Mumbai, after the investigation of this case was abruptly taken over by the National Investigation Agency, following concerns of biased investigation raised by the newly elected Maharashtra government.  News reports reveal that a jail doctor and a 54 year old woman inmate of the Byculla jail have been found COVID positive, raising concerns of its spread through the jail given the overcrowded conditions.   The Arthur Road prison for men is a stone’s throw from Byculla and has nearly 150 COVID positive people among inmates and jail staff..

1.           Justice PB Sawant, Former Judge of Supreme Court of India and Chairperson of Press Council of India, Pune

2.           Romila Thapar, Eminent Historian, Professor Emeritus, JNU

3.           Amit Bhaduri, Eminent Economist, Professor Emeritus, JNU

4.           Brinda Karat, Member Polit Bureau CPIM

5.           Annie Raja, General Secretary, NFIW

6.           Madhu Bhaduri, Retired Ambassador of India

7.           Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Economist and Professor, New Delhi

8.           Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

9.           Prof. Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, JNU

10.       Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

11.       Githa Hariharan, Writer

12.       Mallika Sarabhai, Director, Darpana and Artivist

13.       Gautam Mody, General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative

14.       Ritu Dewan, Retd Director, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai

15.       Ravi Kiran Jain, President, National PUCL

16.       Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL

17.       Aruna Roy, founder member MKSS

18.       Nikhil Dey, founder member MKSS

19.       Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari

20.       Rohini Hensman, writer and researcher

21.       Kavita Srivastava, Social Activist, PUCL Rajasthan

22.       Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace

23.       Binayak Sen, PUCL Chhattisgarh

24.       Ilina Sen PUCL Chhattisgarh

25.       Prabhakar Sinha, Former President PUCL

26.       Lalita Ramdas, Alibag

27.       Tushar Gandhi, Writer & Social Activist

28.       Shabnam Hashmi, Social activist

29.       Pratiksha Baxi, Academic, Delhi

30.       Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

31.       Uma Chakravarti, Feminist Historian, Documentary Film Maker

32.       Anuradha Talwar, Labour activist, PBKMS, West Bengal

33.       Seema Azad, Editor Dastak, council member PUCL

34.       Vimal Bhai, Social Activist, NAPM, New Delhi

35.       Arundhati Dhuru, Activist NAPM

36.       Smita Gupta, Social Activist and Researcher, New Delhi

37.       Navsharan, Cultural Activist and Researcher, New Delhi

38.       Amar Jesani, Public Health & Bioethics Researcher

39.       Rakhi Sehgal, Labour Activist and Researcher, New Delhi

40. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Mumbai

41.       Shipra Nigam, Economist, New Delhi

42.       Madhur Bharatiya, Researcher Lawyer