M A I N   N E W S

Will compensation bring back her 43 years?
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Varanasi, September 18
Rupees 10 lakh have been demanded as compensation for 73-year-old Sarla for being kept for 43 years at the Varanasi mental hospital. The designated human rights court of Varanasi will hear her case for release, rehabilitation and compensation tomorrow.

On September 11, Sarla, now an old woman, had appeared in the court of Additional District Judge 1 Anil Kumar Mishra. This was the first time she had left the confines of the prison-like mental hospital in 43 years.

While taking training for being a health visitor at the Nursing College in Allahabad she had reportedly murdered her roommate Shanti with a spade on the night of March 25, 1961.

When the state government challenged her acquittal in the murder case, the Allahabad High Court decided to hear her when she was mentally fit. This is what Justice D.S. Mathur’s order of December 6, 1963, said: “As the respondent is mentally ill and unfit to defend herself, the appeal cannot be heard for so long as she is unable to defend herself.”

Fortythree precious years slipped by. Neither the mental hospital sent any report to the court nor was Sarla ever presented in court. The Varanasi mental hospital record of May 19, 2005, clearly shows her to be fit.

If the Jagjivan Ram Yadav case would not have brought the condition of undertrials and convicted prisoners lodged in mental hospital in news, Sarla may have spent the remaining years of her life in the confines of the mental hospital. Taking cognisance of media reports, the Supreme Court had demanded details of the case that finally facilitated the release of the septuagenarian after 38 years in the mental hospital in February.

A resident of Andhau village in Ghazipur district, Sarla is definitely extraordinary. In those days when literate rural women were difficult to come by she had passed her class XI intermediate examination and gave tuitions to children of the village. She had been married to Hanuman Prasad of Saklenabad of the same district. However, she went there only once after her “gauna” and decided to return to her parent’s home to resume her studies.

According to human rights lawyer Ramesh Upadhya, who is fighting her case in the human rights court of Varanasi, the hospital record of May 19, 2005, shows Sarla to be mentally fit. Interestingly, the record of May 18, 2006, once again records her mental condition to be unfit. “My question is why was she not presented in court when she was fit,” demands Upadhyay.

According to Upadhyay the hospital is taking the plea of wrong address in the registers for not being able to get in touch with Sarla’s family for all these years.

Nobody from the hospital administration was available for comments.

While Sarla’s husband, parents and sister are no more, she does have a brother, Ram Surat, who had been adopted by her parents. He now ploughs the family’s 2 bighas at Andhau village.

“We had no news of her for so many years that we had thought her to be dead. For me it would be an honour to serve her for the remaining years of her life,” her brother told Upadhyay.



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