YouTuber and whistleblower ‘Savukku’ Shankar, who is currently serving a six-month imprisonment after the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court held him guilty of criminal contempt of court, has ended the hunger strike he began on September 30, Friday, in protest against the ban on his visitation rights. Shankar had also demanded that he be transferred to the Puzhal jail in Chennai from the Cuddalore Central Jail where he is lodged at present, stating that he feared for his life. After an appeal was submitted to the Tamil Nadu Prison Department in this regard, the prison officials have promised to consider his demands.
The YouTuber had gone on a hunger strike after the prison authorities revoked his visitation rights for a month, because he tore up a notice from the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) dismissing him from service, on September 24. On Sunday, advocate Pugalenthi, director of the Prisoners Rights Forum, had written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin stating that Shankar’s health was in a “critical condition”.
“The ban on his visitation rights goes against natural justice,” advocate Pugalenthi, who is also Shankar’s lawyer, had said in the letter to the CM. “Prison officials have imposed this ban without following prison laws and rules. Due to the ban, friends, relatives and legal experts have not been able to meet Shankar and neither has it been possible to discuss the appeal in the Supreme Court against his sentence,” Pugalenthi added.
It was on September 15 that the High Court sentenced Shankar to six months in prison, in connection with a contempt case lodged against him over a statement he made on his YouTube channel, that “the entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption”. He was first lodged in Madurai Central Prison, and later shifted to the Cuddalore prison citing security reasons. When Shankar was sent the notice dismissing him from DVAC earlier this month, sources in Cuddalore prison had said that the notice had to be pasted on the wall of his cell as he refused to accept it by hand.
Shankar was suspended from the DVAC earlier in 2008, for allegedly leaking secret phone conversations of two higher officials of the organisation. He had legally challenged the DVAC's decision to suspend him and had been on subsistence allowance ever since. During his contempt hearing, the court had observed that Shankar is a suspended employee of the state government. “He has been receiving a subsistence allowance for the last 13 years and is governed by the Conduct Rules. Yet, he has been attacking all three organs of the state viciously,” the court order had said.