The Maharashtra State government has on Thursday informed the Bombay High Court that the state is willing to shift the 81-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao to the prison ward of JJ Hospital, instead of sending him back to the Taloja Prison Hospital.
Varavara Rao, who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, is presently admitted to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. Earlier this week, the hospital authorities submitted a report in the high court stating that 81-year-old Rao was fit to be discharged.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, the counsel for Rao’s wife Hemlatha in a writ petition alleged the breach of Rao’s fundamental rights to life due to his continued incarceration without adequate medical facilities in the prison. During the hearing before the HC bench comprising of Justices S S Shinde and Madhav Jamdar, raised serious objections against Rao’s medical report. She submitted that a copy of the report was served on the petitioner only on Thursday at 1 PM. She further argued that there was a non-compliance of the 12th November’s court order while citing that an incomplete medical report was submitted without the test results annexed to it.
Jaising also submitted that the report was prepared after a video examination of Rao by the doctors of Nanavati hospital which lasted for barely15 minutes. She further submitted that the neurologist and the urologist have not seen Varavara Rao though he has neurological problems and urinary infection.
“Rao has to be seen by specialists and experts. I have categorically said that he suffers from dementia. Where is the report on his dementia?” Jaising asserted.
She urged the court to grant Rao bail at least for a temporary period and impose any condition on his bail that is deemed fit to let Rao go back home to Hyderabad.
However, the court said that the NIA, the prosecuting agency in the case, might raise a few objections to Rao being granted bail.
“Few doubts another side may raise. If Rao is allowed to go back to Hyderabad he may again get involved in the alleged activities,” the bench said. “Long back, I remember the allegation was that the plan was to overthrow the government,” added the bench.
Jaising, however, said that the NIA’s apprehensions were irrelevant since this was a case of bail on medical grounds. Further, she added that the charges of plans to overthrow the government were not true.
“He is bed-ridden. He is in diapers. He can’t control urination. He is with a urine bag. His catheter has not been removed. Is this man going to flee away from justice?” Jaising had submitted.
“They (NIA) claim they have found a letter from someone else’s computer talking about the assassination of the prime minister. That is a far-fetched story,” Jaising said. “Why would I write such a letter and keep it on the computer?” she asserted.
She reiterated that the court could impose strict bail conditions and Rao would remain “home-bound”.
“Put any condition on him. In our country it is the process which is the punishment,” Jaising said.
To this, the bench said that it had tried to grant all possible health facilities to Rao. “We have given him every facility we could. The problem is the Act,” the bench said, referring to the stringent restrictions on grant of bail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) that has been slapped on Rao and his co-accused persons in the case.
Earlier, Rao’s wife had approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 seeking his release. On October 29, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the fact that the Bombay High Court has not listed Rao’s bail application since September 17. The Supreme Court directed the High Court to consider the bail application at the earliest and suggested the petitioner move the HC.
On 20 January 2021, Senior Advocate Anand Grover representing the ailing octogenarian poet-activist, urged the Bombay High Court to grant bail to Rao on medical grounds while citing that the Taloja Jail Hospital does not have the infrastructure to monitor his condition.