Father Frazer Mascarenhas, an associate of late Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, has approached the Bombay High Court seeking to clear Swamy's name in the Elgar Parishad case. In a petition filed through senior counsel Mihir Desai on Thursday, December 16, Mascarenhas, former principal of city-based St Xavier's College, also sought that the court monitor the judicial inquiry into Swamy's custodial death.
Last month the Jamshedpur Jesuit Province (JJP) had requested the high court that Mascarenhas be considered as Swamy's next-of-kin and allowed to challenge observations made by the lower court while rejecting Swamy's bail plea in the Elgar Parishad case. A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal had asked the JJP to file a fresh plea while disposing of all pending pleas filed by Swamy.
Swamy (84) died at a private hospital in Mumbai on July 5 while awaiting medical bail. Earlier, in March 2021, a special court for National Investigation Agency cases had rejected his bail application. There was prima facie evidence against him in the case, the court had noted. Swamy then filed an appeal in the high court, but he died before the high court could decide it.
In the fresh plea filed in the high court, Mascarenhas said the NIA court's observations amounted to preliminary findings of guilt against Swamy and besmirched his reputation.
Had Swamy been alive, he would have had the right to prove his innocence, and his next-of-kin should be given the right to clear his name considering that he died awaiting trial, the petition said.
It also urged the high court to monitor the judicial inquiry which is held when a person dies in judicial custody under section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Besides the immediate cause of death, the inquiry must also look into the events that preceded his death, including his worsening health while at Taloja prison and the inadequate health facilities there, it said. The high court is yet to assign a date for the hearing of the plea.
The Elgar Parishad case relates to a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the city police alleged, was backed by Maoists. Police alleged that the event triggered violence at the Koregaon Bhima war memorial the next day.