Bombay HC grants 6-month bail to Varavara Rao on medical grounds (Ld)

The Bombay High Court has granted bail to P. Varavara Rao, one of the prime accused in Koregaon-Bhima case, on medical grounds for six months, here on Monday.

The bail order was passed by a division bench comprising Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale in two separate matter pertaining to the 82-year-old ailing activist.

Rao, a revolutionary author and Left ideologue, was first arrested by Pune police on August 28, 2018 in connection with the case involving a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which he and his family have denied.

Imposing conditions, the court directed that Rao must remain within the jurisdiction of the Special NIA Court, appear before the court whenever required though he could apply to seek exemption from physical appearance and advised him not to indulge in any kind of activities of which he was earlier accused in the police case.

When the Additional Solicitor-General Anil Singh sought a three-weeks stay on the order, the court rejected the plea given Rao’s advanced age and his medical conditions.

The orders came on Rao’s plea seeking bail and an application by his wife P. Hemlatha demanding the high court’s intervention alleging violation of his fundamental right to health.

Observing that it is a “genuine and fit case to grant relief”, the judges said given the health condition of the under-trial, “it would be inappropriate” to send him back to jail.

Presently, Rao is undergoing treatment at the Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle (Mumbai) after the state government informed the court that it was ready to shift him to a private hospital as a special case.

The court also urged the lawyers to adopt a humanitarian approach while making their submissions in the case, given Rao’s deteriorating health and advanced age.

In October 2020, P. Hemlatha had moved the Supreme Court which denied her relief but directed her to approach the Bombay High Court, and also requested the high court to consider his medical bail plea on priority.

At the previous hearings, Rao’s lawyers Anand Grover and Indira Jaising argued that his medical conditions could turn critical if he was again sent back to Taloja Central Jail and would be violative of his fundamental right to health.

Grover said the Taloja jail hospital was ill-equipped to handle Rao’s critical health condition while Jaising said his detention was “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

Representing the NIA, ASG Singh opposed the bail on grounds that the jail authorities are capable of extending all medical facilities as provided by the Nanavati Hospital, and the seriousness of the offences of national security under which Rao is charged must be taken into account while considering his bail plea.

Hailing from Telangana’s Warangal district, Rao is a litterateur (author and poet), critic, orator, a former teacher, professor, college principal, who worked with the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for some time and was jailed during the Emergency.

He also worked as an emissary for the Telugu Desam-led Andhra Pradesh regime in 2001 to negotiate peace between the government and a couple of banned Maoist outfits.

Rao was arrested from his Hyderabad home in August 2018 for the Elgar Parishad of December 31, 2017 and the subsequent caste riots in Koregaon-Bhima on January 1, 2018.

During his stay as an undertrial in Taloja Central Jail, he has been hospitalized several times, including once after testing positive for Covid-19.