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The Rediff Interview/Telgi lawyer M T Nanaiah
November 20, 2003
Abdul Karim Telgi, the main accused in the Rs 30,000 crore fake stamp paper scam has tested HIV positive, according to his lawyer M T Nanaiah.
On November 6, Telgi was taken to NIMHANS, Bangalore, where after tests he was found to be HIV positive.
Telgi, who is lodged in the central prison in Parappana Agrahara, Bangalore, has been ill for a while now. He suffers from diabetes and a cardiac related condition. But he says AIDS was not what he was suffering ever from.
The scamster is blaming the police and jail authorities for his condition and asked his lawyer to demand a CBI enquiry into his claim.
Nanaiah spoke to Special Correspondent Priya Ganapati in Bangalore about Telgi's medical condition and how he could have got HIV while in custody.
You have made a sensational allegation about Telgi contracting HIV while in custody.
It is not an allegation. It has been found after examination and laboratory tests that Telgi is HIV positive. What he is saying is that he was not suffering from it prior to his arrest. Previously, a number of doctors had examined him and taken his blood test. None of the reports show he was infected with HIV.
Even before his arrest, he had ailments for which he was taking treatment and medicines. The HIV didn't show up then. So the question is now how and where did he acquire it.
From August 6, 2003 to August 15, 2003, by the order of the high court he was remanded to police custody for examination. Since he is a chronic diabetic he was being given insulin and then taken to hospital by the STAMPIT (Stamp Investigation Team) for treatment.
So according to Telgi, the only possibility is he got infected then. He says there is the hand of the STAMPIT police in getting this done. All through, we are arguing in court that there is no material to connect him with the stamp paper scam while the police is claiming there is a criminal conspiracy that he is involved in.
Telgi feels since STAMPIT people have no material to connect him to the scam they intend to eliminate him by keeping him in judicial custody. Because each time when he needs medical treatment for ailments he is suffering from, the prosecution says it will file an objection.
All medical treatment to him has been stopped from October 17 and despite orders passed by the court he has not been given treatment.
How was the fact that he was HIV positive discovered?
He went to NIMHANS hospital in Bangalore for medical treatment. He suffers from diabetes and needs insulin injections. While the doctors were doing tests on him, they realized he was HIV positive. Immediately, they informed Telgi about it. On November 9, it was further confirmed by additional tests that he is HIV positive.
How could Telgi have contracted HIV in police custody?
According to him, he was taken to the Bowring & Lady Curzon Hospital in Bangalore every day by the police while in custody for treatment for his diabetes. That's the only possibility where this could have happened. As to who are responsible needs to be investigated by the State.
Do you think it could have been an accident? That he could have got infected in the hospital accidentally?
It is too premature to say now whether it is accidental or motivated. According to Telgi, it is motivated.
STAMPIT people have instructed the jail authorities not to provide him with the facilities that he was enjoying earlier. The television in his cell was taken away; under the plea of risk to his life they have posted additional security around him hampering his movements. They have also put a camera in his room. He doesn't have as much free movement as the other inmates of the jail do. All this, Telgi feels, shows that the STAMPIT people want to take out their vengeance on him.
The likelihood that he may get out of the legal process, he says, has driven them to eliminate him. He has stated that he has apprehensions for his life not from the outside world but from the STAMPIT people alone and he has also filed an application about this in the court of law on November 11, 2003.
There has never been an incident before of the police being alleged of deliberately infecting the accused with HIV.
There have been cases of blinding in police custody in Bihar. There are cases where nerves were cut. Now HIV infection is easy to give in India. There are a couple of HIV infected inmates in jail hospitals and in outside hospitals. When people are in jail they can be taken to the hospitals and it is very easy to get HIV that way.
In Telgi's case, the other possibilities of HIV are not valid. He did not come in sexual contact with any lady when he was in jail or he did not have any blood transfusions.
The only possibility is he got it while in police custody.
The police claim he has always had HIV.
Telgi was arrested two years ago. It is not possible that it could not have been found out then. He was taken to the hospital numerous times for several examinations but this never came up. As soon as he was arrested and taken into police custody in November 2001, for 15 days then also he was sick. He was treated but they did not trace HIV then. STAMPIT says every day he was taken to the hospital. How could they have not found it then? If HIV were to be there, then it would definitely been known.
Since the discovery of him being HIV positive, has he been given any treatment?
One of the things that needs to be mentioned is this incident. A doctor who has been treating him regularly has said it is only timely and regular attention that has kept Telgi alive. Now, according to Telgi, STAMPIT is putting pressure on the government to shift this doctor. As a result, all medical attention to Telgi has stopped. This is not the business of STAMPIT.
As a result, Telgi is not getting any medical aid since October 17. He is not having any medical attention for HIV, diabetes or cardiac problems. He has not been extended any medical facilities except for access to the rather limited facilities of the jail hospital. We are saying he should be taken out of jail and admitted to a major hospital for treatment for his problems.
Have you filed any petition in the court asking for this?
Yes. With regard to HIV, since it has been recently found and brought up the matter is not yet in front of the court. Under his instructions, we are filing an application soon for him to be taken to a major hospital for treatment for HIV and other ailments.
How did Telgi become your client?
One of his relatives came to me asking if I would appear for him. I reviewed the papers and agreed. After his consent, I started appearing for him.
When we appeared first for him, the magnitude of the case was not this high. Only slowly, several things came into play, including the Bombay matter.
When Telgi was first arrested only one case registered at the Upparpet police station in Bangalore was pending against him. Later in Bangalore itself, several cases were registered and then on an all India basis.
We started appearing for him from November last year.
Telgi says the STAMPIT people are now pressurizing him saying he must change his counsel or rather that he must remove me. The reasons are best known to them. But Telgi decided to stick by me.
How has your perception of the case changed from when you first took it on?
This is a case that has grown beyond proportion. It is a case where police officials and politicians are involved. I am aware of this fact. But I take this case like any other matter. The reason is that being a defence counsel I defend against the chargesheet filed against the accused. Beyond that I do not go into the personal affairs of the accused. I have no grouse against the police officers handling the case either. They are doing their duty and we are doing our duty in the court of law. I don't hold any particular police officer responsible now. When the matter comes up in the court of law, we will cross examine the police properly and then prove our case.
What is Telgi's day like in jail?
As an inmate of a jail there is nothing much they can do. Telgi is an undertrial prisoner so the authorities cannot ask him to do any sort of work in jail. Only convicted inmates can be asked to do labour.
After our petitions, the television in his room has been reinstalled. The police said it went out of order so it was taken away in between. Telgi reads all the newspapers and watches television. He gets food from outside.
His relatives are entitled to meet him. But the police harass visitors who come to meet him a lot. They are whisked away and questioned so he doesn't get any visitors now.
All day, he meets no one from outside except the boy who comes to deliver food to him. He has been kept in jail with no communication with the outside world.
Telgi's brother has been arrested by the Pune police. He wanted to meet his ailing mother who is 84 and stays in Kanapur near Belgaum. His wife is sick and in Bombay. He wanted to his mother and also meet his wife there but the State has stated objections to it.
The effect of all this in the mind of the accused is that the STAMPIT wants to eliminate him.
What kind of person is Telgi?
From my interactions with him I found him to be quite intelligent. He is a good listener and a man who believes in simple living. The media has highlighted him to the extent where they have already pronounced him guilty. The police too is going beyond its brief in this case. They are duty bound to investigate the case and file the chargesheet. But they are writing letters to the IT department asking for his properties to be seized for non-payment of taxes.
Telgi has had other businesses where he used to earn money and purchase properties. Till today there is no evidence to prove that these properties were bought using money from the scam.
He likes to help people. When he had gone to Ajmer, where he was arrested, he had taken 40 people along with him and he was paying for their food and housing.
How is his health now?
Since October 17, all medical treatment has been stopped. We have already filed applications before the court and despite the sessions court's directive on November 11, it has not been resumed. His sugar count is at 437, while for normal people it is around 110. So doctors say that there is a danger that he may slip into coma.
Why do you believe STAMPIT is vengeful towards him?
There is every likelihood that he will get out under the law. The police, however, feel he is the kingpin of the entire episode so it is best sorted out by keeping him in jail and eliminating him from there.
There is no progress on this case since the last two years. The state is taking its own time with numerous adjournments. For several months, the public prosecutor was not appointed. So the case was languishing.
Is all this because of Telgi's alleged involvement with high profile officials and its implications?
Yes. That is one of the major reasons for the STAMPIT's actions against him.
Image: Uday Kuckian