Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, pictured in a screenshot from a video, has been incarcerated in an Indian jail since his Oct. 9, 2020, arrest. Relatives and Jesuit friends are concerned that the 84-year-old priest, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, has contracted COVID-19. CNS screenshot/YouTube

High Court orders jailed Indian Jesuit to hospital for evaluation

  • May 19, 2021

MUMBAI, India -- The High Court in Mumbai ordered prison authorities to take an ailing 84-year-old Jesuit to the hospital, as it heard his appeal to receive bail on medical grounds, Indian media reported.

The High Court said Jesuit Father Stan Swamy must be taken to JJ hospital at noon May 20. Media reports said the court ordered the hospital to have him examined by a neurologist, orthopedic physician, general practitioner and ear, nose and throat specialist. The court ordered the hospital to report back to the judges May 21.

Father Swamy suffers from Parkinson's disease, hearing loss and lumbar spondylosis. Jesuits and family members believe he might also have COVID-19.

"Father Swamy had a severe cold, fever, body pain and diarrhea and could not even attend a call from his legal team. This indicates that he was suffering from COVID-19," his elder brother, Irudaya Swamy, 90, told a virtual news conference May 15. "We are not sure if he is getting proper medical attention. His health condition is getting worse."

The priest has been in Mumbai's Taloja Central Jail since Oct. 9, a day after he was arrested in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. The activist, who works for the rights of tribal people in Jharkhand, was accused of conspiring with the outlawed Maoist rebels to overthrow the federal government and organize violence.

He is among 16 rights activists detained in the same jail on charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act linked to a 2018 riot in Maharashtra's Bhima Koregaon village.

Jesuits and rights activists say the police fabricated charges and evidence against the activists to silence them after they criticized the policies and programs of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party that runs the federal government.

Father A. Santhanam, a Jesuit lawyer, said several others jailed with Father Swamy also are not well. They, too, need care after many in the prison, including staff and cooks, reportedly contracted COVID-19, he said.

"We are seriously worried about his health," Father Santhanam told May 17.

"Father Swamy is already suffering from Parkinson's disease and needs the help of inmates to take care of his daily chores. His situation will be serious if he is infected."

Jesuit Father Joseph Xavier, director of the Indian Social Institute based in Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, said Father Swamy "never complained about his health in the past months, but on May 14, for the first time, he spoke of his deteriorating health."

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