11/26/2021, 12.47
INDIA
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A new trial in Mumbai to establish Fr Swamy’s innocence

by Nirmala Carvalho

At the request of the Jesuits, the High Court of Bombay agreed to open new proceedings in connection with terrorism charges levelled at the clergyman who died at 84 years after a long imprisonment. The stigma associated with Fr Stan’s memory must be erased.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The High Court of Bombay has accepted a request by the Jesuits to start a new legal procedure to establish the innocence of Fr Stan Swamy, the Jesuit priest who died on 5 July after a long period of detention on terrorism charges.

Fr Swamy, known for his commitment to the rights of tribal people in the Indian state of Jharkhand, was arrested on 8 October 2020 in connection with riots that broke out on 1 January 2018 on Bhima Koregaon, the commemoration of a historic battle fought by Dalits.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed that the Jesuit, along with 16 other activists also arrested, were members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), plotting to overthrow the government, accusations Fr Swamy always rejected.

When the clergyman died, he was still waiting for a ruling by the High Court on his petition for bail release, which had been denied several times.

For this reason, on Wednesday the court heard Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, director of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai, designated by the local Jesuit province as the accused’s "next of kin”.

Fr Mascarenhas asked that the proceedings continue anyway to establish Fr Swamy’s innocence.

“Article 21 (Right to dignity) of the Constitution equally applies to deceased persons and just as the Appellant (Father Swamy) would have had a right to clear his name if he were alive,” said lawyer Mihir Desai.

The Court has recognized this right, asking however for a new application; thus, a new procedure has to be initiated.

“The Court's decision is significant,” said Jesuit Fr Arockiasamy Santhanam, spokesman for the National Lawyers Forum of Religious and Priests, speaking to AsiaNews. “The dead person deserves not only decent burial or cremation but also a decent memory,” he added.

“All along it was argued that the case against Stan Swamy was baseless and that he was wrongly implicated. Although his earthly journey has ended, his life continues in the hearts of many. And he had great faith in justice.”

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