State can’t tell anybody how to practice their religion: AAP’s Satyendar Jain to court

Jailed AAP leader Satyendar Jain’s lawyers Thursday told a Delhi court that the State has no right to tell anybody how to practice their religion, while doubling down on allegations that Tihar jail staff withdrew his special diet while he was on a religious fast.

Special Judge Vikas Dhull will pronounce his order on Jain’s application on Friday. The court is hearing Jain’s application which alleges that he lost 28 kg because his special diet was withdrawn by jail authorities.

Representing Jain, senior advocate Rahul Mehra began his arguments by stating that the State is nobody to tell anyone how to follow their religion. He argued that if Jain was on a fast, then it was up to him to decide when to break the fast and the “State cannot stop him” from doing that.

On the jail authority’s arguments that an indefinite fast was not permitted, Mehra said the rules don’t say so. “You can’t stop (me) because you have an axe to grind… How deeply interested they are against me. It is as if I am given some major facility. Some major concessions are done. I am not even consuming basic food. You are spreading false information. You are saying I am enjoying my life. How biased can your approach be?” Mehra argued.

On the jail authority’s arguments that leaked CCTV footage showing Jain eating food was not in their possession, Mehra told the court that these were lies. “Lies after lies. Court asked for it. How are you showing previous CCTV footage and now you don’t have,” Mehra told the court. A new video had emerged on Wednesday, purportedly showing Jain eating food in jail. Jain’s lawyers had told the court that the latest video leak was based on doctored clips.

Advocate Abhijit Shankar, appearing on behalf of jail authorities, Thursday told the court that Jain had not informed the prison that he was undertaking a fast and only informed that he was on a diet of fruits and vegetables.

He submitted that Jain was earlier provided nuts under directions from a medical officer and this opinion was later changed, suggesting that he supplement his protein intake through other sources.

He argued that jail authorities had not withdrawn his food and that Jain was buying fruits and vegetables from the jail canteen. Shankar also produced Jain’s canteen expenses to show he was buying food items like fruits, vegetables and milk.

Jain’s lawyers alleged that the fruits and vegetables were not available in the canteen on some days.

Shankar told the court that jail authorities cannot make arrangements for one inmate which can set a precedent for the other inmates who will all start moving court for special diets.

“Tomorrow if Muslims, during Eid, will say I could not give qurbani, I could not eat. These are in orders of the Government. He (Jain) cannot go to a temple… he is having fruits and vegetables… (For) one person we do it, then tomorrow there will be 200. Can we alter the menu for 200,” Shankar told the court.

Jain has been in custody since May in connection with an alleged money laundering case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Last week, a Delhi court denied bail to Jain in the case. Special Judge Dhull had observed that it “has prima facie come on record that Jain was actually involved in concealing proceeds of crime by giving cash to Kolkata-based entry operators and bringing the cash into three companies”.

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