Undertrial gangster brings bottle of mosquitoes to court to seek nets in Taloja jail; plea rejected

IN A bid to draw attention to the mosquito menace at Taloja Central Jail, gangster Ejaz Lakdawala, who is an undertrial at the prison, arrived at the Mumbai sessions court with a plastic bottle filled with mosquitoes on Thursday.

Lakdawala showed the bottle, which had swatted mosquitoes, and told the judge that this is what most prisoners had to put up with every day inside the jail. Lakdawala has been seeking access to a mosquito net, along with other undertrials, who have been approaching various courts with similar pleas. His plea was rejected by the court.

Lakdawala told the court that since he was sent to judicial custody in 2020, he has been lodged at Taloja Central Jail. He said at that time, he was permitted to use a mosquito net, which was taken away by prison authorities after they conducted a search of all belongings of undertrials in May.

He also submitted that mosquito nets are provided to staff, who are assigned to guard the barracks at night, as well as to a few undertrials who have been allowed by courts to use the nets.

Prison officials opposed his plea and raised the issue of security, stating that nails and strings used for setting up the mosquito nets could pose safety concerns. Lakdawala sought to use the net without any nails and strings. “Applicant/Accused No.1 can use Odomos and other repellents and therefore the prayer is rejected,” the court said, rejecting his plea.

Lakdawala is facing multiple criminal cases, including those under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

In May, prison authorities confiscated mosquito nets used by prisoners in the jail, citing security concerns. This had led to various courts receiving applications from undertrials, seeking permission to use nets. Undertrials have been submitting to courts that there is a severe mosquito menace in the prison and they should therefore be permitted the use of nets.

Prison authorities, however, have cited rules stating that mosquito nets are not mentioned in the list of items permitted to be used in the jail. In a few cases, the court has said that the need is genuine and allowed nets including in the case of gangster D K Rao.

In July, plea of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case was rejected by a court, which had given directions to the jail superintendent to take ‘all necessary precautions against mosquitoes’. In September, after an accused in the case, activist Vernon Gonsalves, contracted dengue, his co-accused Gautam Navlakha approached court, seeking permission to use nets. The plea is currently pending.

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