Riled by news article, HC says it passes orders without fear

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(Eds: Adds quotes and observations of court) Mumbai, Jun 3 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday asserted it passed orders in all cases without any fear or pressure as it asked the private hospital where academician Hany Babu, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, has been admitted to re-examine him and submit reports.

A bench of Justices SS Shinde and Abhay Ahuja directed that the Breach Candy Hospital in south Mumbai submit the latest medical reports of Babu, an associate professor at the Delhi University, by June 14.

The bench said it will hear on merits Babu's plea seeking interim bail on June 15 and till then he will stay admitted at the leading multispecialty private hospital.

During the hearing, the bench referred to a recent article written in a national newspaper by a colleague of Babu's lawyer, senior counsel Yug Chaudhry.

The article referred to the interim bail plea filed by Babu's co-accused in the case, Father Stan Swamy, and the priest's ill health, among other things.

The court asked advocate Chaudhry if it was ethical for his colleague to write an article in a matter in which he was appearing and that was sub-judice.

Chaudhry said he or his colleague were not the counsels for Swamy.

Besides, he had a right to write, and to approach courts for relief, Chaudhry said.

'This is not acceptable. You cannot write articles when you are appearing in a group of matters. You are an officer of this court.

'Unless you have faith in the system how will you assist us?' Justice Shinde observed.

'You go and write, every day, we have no objection to it. But when you are arguing before us but have no faith in us then what's the point?' the judge said.

Advocate Chaudhry urged the court to uphold one's right to freedom of speech.

The court then said that it was not against free speech but was only insisting that one must have faith in the judiciary.

'We are the last to say that there should be some restrictions on freedom of expression. We are not concerned what you write etc., but faith is everything,' the HC said.

Justice Shinde went on to say that he didn't have time to read newspapers, but the said article was brought to his notice by others.

The judge then said the court passed orders without being influenced by what was being written in newspapers or, discussed in public.

'I read that article because someone asked me to read it. It is a well worded article only where I stuck was faith.

So, please keep faith in us.

'We have passed orders upholding free speech and expression. Have faith in us,' the HC observed.

The court said facts of a case matter the most for it.

'We are not afraid of anybody. The law is what matters and the facts of a case. We are not afraid of anyone. We are not under any pressure. Take this word from our side,' the bench said.

The court further referred to the medical bail plea filed by poet Varavara Rao, a co-accused in the Elgar case.

The HC said it faced some pressure in the case but it passed orders allowing Rao's bail plea and upholding his right to health as guaranteed by his constitutional right to life.

'There was pressure in that matter too. It was also a crucial matter. We passed orders without any fear or favour in it,' Justice Shinde said.

'So many matters regarding freedom of speech and expression we have heard and allowed. Keep faith in us. We are here to do justice, unafraid of anyone,' the HC said.

Advocate Chaudhry said it was only because he and others had faith in the court that they come to it.

'But sometimes we are let down,' Chaudhry said.

The HC directed the Breach Candy Hospital to re- examine Babu, and continue his medical treatment till the next date of hearing.

It also permitted Babu's wife, daughter, and mother to visit him in the hospital as per hospital protocols.

In February this year, a bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale had granted bail for six months to an ailing Varavara Rao on medical and humanitarian grounds.

Babu was arrested by the NIA in July 2020.

On May 19, the HC permitted Babu to be shifted to the Breach Candy Hospital for medical treatment at his own cost.

The hospital submitted a report before the HC on Thursday stating Babu had been provided treatment for COVID-19 and an eye infection, and he was now fit for discharge.

Babu's lawyer Yug Chaudhry, however, urged the HC not to send Babu back to the Taloja Central Prison yet. The academician was lodged in the jail in Navi Mumbai as an undertrial before he was shifted to the hospital.

Advocate Sandesh Patil, a counsel for the prosecuting agency, the National Investigating Agency (NIA), opposed Chaudhry's request and said Babu must be sent back to prison.

The bench initially said since the hospital had declared Babu fit for discharge, the HC could not force the private medical facility to continue giving treatment to Babu and keep him admitted.

'He (Babu) doesn't need critical care anymore but that doesn't mean he's fully well. He is ready for discharge but don't send him back to prison. Put him under house arrest,' Chaudhry pleaded.

'Please don't send him back to prison, he has just recovered from COVID-19,' he said.

The bench said since Babu had been charged under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an-anti terror law, all parties would have to be heard on merits.

In the meanwhile, Babu could be shifted to the state- run JJ Hospital in Mumbai, the HC said, but later suggested that the Breach Candy Hospital re-look at Babu's health condition. PTI AYA RSY RSY

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