Madras HC Closes Habeas Plea by Savukku Shankar's Mother, Asks Authorities to Consider Prison Transfer Request

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Court without going into the merits of the representation filed by Savukku's mother seeking prison transfer for her son, directed the DG of Prisons/Correctional Services, Chennai, and the Additional Superintendent of Prisons, Central Prison, Gandhipuram, Coimbatore, to consider and dispose of the said representation

The Madras High Court on May 9 closed the habeas corpus petition filed by YouTuber and alleged activist ‘Savukku’ Shankar's mother. His mother, A. Kamala, sought a judicial inquiry against alleged custodial violence incited on him. Savukku is currently confined in the Central Prison, Coimbatore, under the Judicial custody.

Savukku's mother also sought direction to provide adequate medical treatment to him in a private hospital for the severe injuries allegedly inflicted on him. 

The vacation bench of Justice AD Jagadish Chandira and Justice R Kalaimathi on May 8 had called for a report from the District Legal Services Authority, Coimbatore, with regard to Savukku's health condition. 

Pursuant to this, on May 9, a communication dated May 7, 2024, from the Chairman/Principal District Judge, District Legal Services Authority, Coimbatore, along with the report of the Chief Legal Aid Defence Counsel and the medical report of the Assistant Surgeon, Central Prison Dispensary, Coimbatore was placed before the bench. 

Additional Public Prosecutor E.Raj Thilak appearing for the respondents submitted that based on the report of the Chief Legal Aid Defence Counsel, Judicial Magistrate No.4, Coimbatore, vide order dated May 8, 2024, without going into the merits of the allegations, had directed the Superintendent of Central Prison, Coimbatore, to give medical assistance to Savukku in Coimbatore Medical College Hospital at Coimbatore.

The APP also informed the court that pursuant to the directions passed by the Judicial Magistrate, an enquiry had been conducted by the DLSA, Coimbatore and the Judicial Magistrate, after receipt of DLSA, had also directed Savukku to be treated as an out-patient in the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital, Coimbatore.

He argued that in such circumstances when the magistrate concerned had seized of the matter and an enquiry had been conducted by a statutory body, nothing survived in the habeas corpus petition.

Additionally, the APP informed the court that Savukku had multiple injuries even during his remand and he had then informed the magistrate that these injuries resulted from a road accident on May 4 while he was being transported to Coimbatore after his arrest in Theni. This arrest was related to a case filed against him for making derogatory remarks about women police personnel.

On the other hand, Senior counsel John Sathyan appearing for Suvakku's mother submitted that the Superintendent of Coimbatore Prison, Senthil Kumar, has nurtured enemity against Suvakku and there is an apprehension of risk to his life. 

He told the court that Suvakku's mother had already submitted a representation dated May 9, 2024 seeking his transfer from the Central Prison, Coimbatore to any other prison.

The division bench, without going into the merits of the representation filed by Suvakku's mother seeking prison transfer for her son, directed the Director General of Prisons/Correctional Services, Chennai and the Additional Superintendent of Prisons, Central Prison, Gandhipuram, Coimbatore, to consider and dispose of the said representation and pass orders within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the present order. 

With this direction, court closed the habeas corpus petition.

According to the Hindustan Times,  Savukku was a former clerk in the Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC). He was arrested by the then DMK government in 2008 for leaking an audio tape of two top officials. After his release, he turned into a whistle-blower. He launched a website in 2009 called Savukku, meaning whip, where he exposed corruption and wrote about government officials, politicians, journalists, lawyers and high court judges. His leaks included tapes related to the sensational 2G spectrum allocation scam.

In July 2022, the high court took suo motu cognizance against Suvakku for criminal contempt of court over his tweet against Justice G R Swaminathan. He got convicted. According to the contempt order, the tweet implied that Justice Swaminathan was influenced when he quashed a First Information Report (FIR) in December 2021 against YouTuber Maridhas.

However, on November 11, 2022, the Supreme Court suspended the sentence imposed on him.

Up to now, Savukku has been apprehended in five cases lodged across Coimbatore, Theni, and Chennai. Additionally, several more cases have been filed against him in different regions of Tamil Nadu.

Case Title: A.Kamala v. The Home Secretary Department of Home, Prohibition and Excise department, Government of Tamil Nadu and Others