Expecting release on medical bail, ailing octogenarian Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Lourduswamy – an arrested accused in the Koregaon-Bhima case – passed away at a private hospital here on Monday afternoon.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai, who was representing him, brought the development to the notice of the Bombay High Court bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and N.J. Jamdar when the bail plea came up for hearing this afternoon.
“It is with a very heavy heart I have to inform you that Fr Stan Swamy has passed away,” said Dr Ian D’Souza, the doctor treating him at the Holy Family Hospital, informed the court.
He added that the 84-year-old activist – hailing from Tamil Nadu’s Trichy – was suffering from hearing loss, lumbar spondylosis, complications arising out of Covid-19, lung problems and Parkinson’s.
Early on Saturday, Swamy had suffered cardiac arrest and was shifted to the ICU but could not be revived and breathed his last around 1.30 p.m. on Monday.
The court expressed its “shock” over the news while it was preparing to hear his bail plea and directed that the authorities place his autopsy and medical papers on record since he died in custody.
“With all humility at our command, we are sorry to learn that he has passed away. We are shocked,” said the bench.
There was a massive outpour of grief and sympathy on social media for Father Swamy and condemnation of the government by various groups and Left leaders, as the news broke out.
All India Kisan Sabha President Dr Ashok Dhawale termed it as “a custodial killing” and demanded the release of all political prisoners.
Later, the Jesuit Provincial of India said in a statement: “With a deep sense of pain, anguish and hope, we have surrendered Fr Stan Swamy, 84, to his eternal abode.”
It said that “the author of life”, Fr Swamy’s mission was to work among the Adivasis, Dalits, and other marginalised communities so that the poor may have life and live to the full with dignity and honour.
Father Swamy, the founder of NGO Bagicha working for tribal empowerment but which the National Investigation Agency alleged had links with several extremist Maoist groups and banned organisations, was arrested on October 8, 2020 by the agency in connection with his alleged role in the January 1, 2018 Koregaon-Bhima caste violence in Pune, and related issues which rocked the state and national politics.
One of the oldest to be slapped with the stringent UAPA, he was under custody since his arrest and kept at the Taloja Central Jail in Raigad.
Two months ago, as his health deteriorated, he moved the Bombay High Court seeking bail on medical grounds after which the court ordered the state government to shift him from the jail to the hospital for treatment.
During an earlier hearing before a vacation court, he refused to get admitted to the hospital and sought bail so he could be on his own, pointing out that his condition was progressively deteriorating while in jail.
After his lawyer Desai convinced him to take treatment, on May 28, the court directed him to be admitted to a private hospital immediately for 15 days and later extended his stay after taking updates on his condition.