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Prisoner has right to medical treatment: HC on interim bail to Naresh Goyal

Mumbai: A prisoner also has the right to medical treatment and is entitled to dignity, the Bombay High Court observed while granting interim bail for two months on medical grounds to Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal, arrested in a money laundering case.

A single bench of Justice N J Jamadar said there was a difference between undergoing treatment as an undertrial prisoner and as a citizen with no restraint.

The bench had on Monday granted interim bail for two months to Goyal on medical grounds.

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Goyal (75) had sought interim bail on medical and humanitarian grounds as both he and his wife, Anita Goyal, are suffering from cancer.

A special court had in February denied bail to Goyal but permitted him to be admitted to a private hospital of his choice and seek medical treatment.

Goyal then moved the high court seeking bail on merits and to be released on interim bail on medical grounds.

Justice Jamadar, in the order, perused the medical records and said, “It would be audacious to hold that the applicant (Goyal) is not sick.”

A copy of the order was made available on Tuesday.

The bench said a prisoner cannot be left in the lurch when suffering from a serious ailment only on the grounds of a strict provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), under which Goyal has been booked.

“A prisoner has the right to have treatment to preserve his health. It is the obligation of the State to provide requisite treatment to a prisoner to preserve and protect his health. A prisoner is entitled to the dignity he deserves,” the bench observed.

There is a qualitative difference between the treatment a person gets as an undertrial prisoner and as a citizen under no restraint, it added.

The bench refused to accept the Enforcement Directorate’s argument that Goyal was getting treatment in a private hospital of his own choice and was hence, not entitled to be released on bail.

“Such a broad submission loses sight of the precious value of personal liberty. To accept such a broad proposition that once a person gets the requisite treatment, he does not deserve bail, however critical his health condition may be, would defeat the legislative intent of enacting the proviso and render the proviso otiose,” the court said.

The bench added that Goyal has roots in society. Hence, the possibility of fleeing from justice and tampering with evidence seems remote.

The bench directed Goyal to pay a surety of Rs 1 lakh and not to leave Mumbai without prior permission from the trial court.

The ED arrested Goyal in September 2023 on allegations that he had laundered money and siphoned off loans to the tune of Rs 538.62 crore given to Jet Airways by Canara Bank.

His wife, Anita Goyal, was arrested in November 2023 when the probe agency submitted its chargesheet in the case. She was granted bail by the special court on the same day, considering her age and medical condition.

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