The Bombay High Court today granted bail to Varavara Rao, an 81-year old Telugu poet on medical grounds. Rao is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case awaiting trial since August 28, 2018. According to the report in live law.in The High Court observed that it was a “genuine and fit” case for granting relief in view of the advanced age of the petitioner and inadequate facilities at Taloja jail hospital. The bench added that if it denies relief to Rao, it will be abdicating its constitutional duties as a protector of human rights and right to health covered under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Rao is presently lodged in Nanavati Hospital.
A division bench of SS Shinde and Manish Pitale has reportedly ruled that Varavara Rao should either apply for a bail extension after the six months period or surrender. The bail however comes with its conditions. Mr Rao is not to make any public statements regarding the case and is not allowed to go back to Hyderabad.
The Bombay High Court had denied bail to the poet in November 2020. Rao’s lawyer Indira Jaising had claimed that his health was “fast deteriorating”, and there was a legitimate apprehension that he might die in prison. Rao suffers from dementia, is confined to bed in the prison hospital since August, and needs to wear diapers, the lawyer said. Varavara Rao’s family had requested that he be freed urgently because of his worsening health. A division bench led by Justice A K Menon was hearing a petition filed by Rao’s wife Hemlata, seeking that he be shifted to the private Nanavati Hospital for better treatment, an independent medical board be set up to assess his health, and he be released on bail. The court had said doctors could examine him via video call and would visit him if needed. The high court initially suggested that a team of doctors from the Nanavati hospital visit Rao in prison.
The Court on November 18, 2020, had directed the activist to be moved to Nanavati hospital. In this ruling, the Court then had noted that Rao was almost on his deathbed.
According to a report in the Bar and Bench Just as the Court pronounced the verdict, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh sought a stay on the order for three weeks. However, the Court rejected this plea. The Court further held that Rao has to attend the trial whenever necessary, but can apply for exemption from physical appearance.