April 27, 2015
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan
National Human Rights Commission
Dr G. N. Saibaba, a 47-year old teacher in Ram Lal College of Delhi University was arrested by the Maharashtra Police on May 9, 2014, allegedly for political leanings. Even before being formally arrested, he was subjected to many indignities during his interrogation and confinement.
Dr Saibaba is a wheelchair user with 90% disability. Since his arrest, he has been lodged in the Nagpur Central Jail, where he is facing tremendous difficulty owing to the jail premises being completely inaccessible. The jail authorities and the police are completely insensitive to Saibaba's needs as a human being. For instance, his wheelchair was broken due to mishandling. No accessible toilets have been made available to him. The infrastructure within the jail premises is totally unfriendly as far as persons with disabilities are concerned. Living in such a disabled unfriendly environment and being continuously mistreated and mishandled by the jail personnel, Dr. Saibaba is in a precarious medical and health situation. Despite a recent Sessions court order which asked the jail authorities to get medical intervention, the jail authorities have not taken any action.
India has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as also the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As an undertrial, Dr. Saibaba is entitled to being treated as a human being, living with dignity and be provided with basic facilities. At present Dr Saibaba is going through continuous degradation of his physical self due to the inaccessible environment and mental abuse by the concerned authorities.
Despite Saibaba being an under trial, he cannot be denied his basic rights as a human being.
Section 46 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 mandates that all public buildings should be accessible (including toilets).
India has ratified the UN convention on Rights of Persons with disability (UNCRPD). Article 13 states that the "States Parties shall ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages."
Article 14 states that "States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others: (a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person; (b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty."
Article 15 states that "1. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his or her free consent to medical or scientific experimentation. 2. States parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
Dr. Saibaba is in jail virtually without trial. The Delhi University Teacher's Association along with many others have vociferously protested, sought his release and called for his being treated as a human being with equal rights.
Dr Saibaba's case is only the latest example of the humiliation, indignity and violence that most people with disabilities are subjected to when they are arrested, incarcerated, institutionalised or otherwise engage with law-enforcement agencies. This blatant violation of the Constitution and of India's commitments under a range of international treaties should be a source of shame for every right-thinking Indian.
We request the NHRC to intervene to see that that Dr Saibaba is granted bail and released. In the meanwhile the enquiry may proceed and if proved guilty, he may be proceeded against as per provisions of the law. Pending his release basic provisions required for a person with disability should be provided within the jail premises.
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