New Delhi: Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja on Monday welcomed a Kolkata court`s declaration that nine suspected Naxalites arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the CPI (Maoist) arms manufacturing case as ``political prisoners``, saying prisoners must be treated with dignity as human beings and their requirements must be understood when they are kept in prison.
Raja said there is point in what the Kolkata court has said.
"Definitely, they should be treated as political prisoners. One may agree with their politics or may not agree with their politics, that is why the National Investigation Agency has taken up the case against them. But they are suspects and they are prisoners," he said.
The CPI leader pointed out that India is a modern civilized nation where there are talks about jail and police reforms.
"When prisoners are kept in prison, they must be treated with dignity as human beings and their requirements must be understood because after all it is an access to newspaper or television, access to some good water. These are all minimum requirements of any human being whether they are in prison or outside prison," he added.
Several jailed Maoists will now be entitled to privileges of a separate cell, home-cooked food, access to newspapers, books and other reading material, meeting with relatives and advocates and greater freedom inside jail compared to other prisoners.
The NIA is likely to challenge the verdict of the Kolkata court, as the prisoners include CPI (Maoist) technical committee head and the man behind the outfit``s rocket launcher factories, Sadula Ramakrishna alias RK.
This order was pronounced in response to a petition filed before the Kolkata sessions court by the nine accused arrested by NIA. The petitioners sought status of political prisoners even as the NIA opposed their pleas.
The status was granted under the West Bengal Correctional Services Act, 1992.
According to the Act, political prisoners are those who are arrested or convicted on a charge of having committed or attempting to commit aiding or abetting the commissions of any political offence. It is applicable even if the person is charged under the Indian Penal Code.
The law further says that anyone who commits or allegedly commits an offence during a political or democratic movement with an exclusive political objective, free from personal greed or motive, is entitled to political prisoner status. Even charges of waging war against the nation cannot prevent an accused from being granted the status.